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Pork chops meet a dirty martini: A saucy dish best shaken, not stirred

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

A dirty martini is a good choice when you’re looking for a cocktail that’s savory, briny, assertive. Those are the same attributes we seek in sauces to cut through the richness of certain cuts of meat, such as pork chops.

Sure, we could eat our chops with a dirty martini, straight up. But what if, instead, we played dirty and dribbled those martini flavors into a pan sauce?

Once the meat has been seared and aromatics such as garlic and shallots have been sauteed, there are delicious browned bits, called fond, lacing the skillet. To make sure all those bits end up in the pan sauce, we often deglaze the skillet with liquid; it unsticks the flavorful fond, and as it cooks and reduces, it becomes richer and deeper in flavor. It’s common to deglaze with wine; a fortified wine such as marsala, sherry, port or vermouth (lightbulb!); or something stronger, such as whiskey or vodka. Once the alcohol cooks off and the liquid reduces, stock or water can be added, followed by a pat of butter, which turns the mixture into a silky, velvety sauce.

When gin and dry vermouth simmer in a skillet of pork fat, their booze dissipates and their floral qualities take charge. Add any kind of green olives — pimento-stuffed or not — and some of their brine for saltiness, as well as lemon peel and juice to bring out the botanicals of the booze.

The dirty martini has a reputation, but it cleans up nice

We skipped stock or water, resulting in a smaller quantity of a more aggressively flavored sauce that’s only mellowed by the butter at the end. Butter can be tricky to smoothly emulsify into a sauce; it helps to start with cold butter and shake the skillet back and forth as it melts, rather than stir the butter into the sauce.

Is the sauce stiff, dirty, filthy? Yes, sure, if the gimmick delights you, but it’s also just a well-balanced, delicious pan sauce — as right and as wrong as the dirty martini itself.

Get the recipe: Dirty Martini Pork Chops