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30 Mar

Chinese Five Spice Pork Chops with Sautéed Escarole

Sauteed Escarole and PorkEscarole is mostly thought of as a salad green, but like most greens, it’s capable of so much more than that. In this recipe, a hint of vinegar, a pat of butter and a scant drizzle of maple syrup turn escarole into a warm side dish that’s perfect with pork. It’s a bold medley of sweet, salty and pleasantly bitter flavors.

The bitter flavor of escarole can be a “love it” or “hate it” thing. This recipe is meant to woo both sides. The bitterness is still noticeable, but tamed by a magic combination of pork, butter and maple.

The chops are seasoned with Chinese Five Spice, giving the pork both a little heat and the sweet aromatic flavor of cinnamon, cloves and fennel. The butter and maple syrup further balance out the bitter flavor of the escarole, but you don’t have to add maple syrup to make this dish great. Skip it, and you’ll still have a delicious meal with bold flavor.

A very large head of escarole wilts down to four small servings when cooked. Plan to serve another side with the meal, or, if you really love escarole, cook two heads instead of one.

Serves: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 35 minutes


  • 4 pork chops, about 1-inch thick (2.5 cm)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice (5 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (2.5 ml)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (1.25 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (15 ml)
  • 1 large head of escarole (about 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (15 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (5ml)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (30 ml)
  • Sea salt


Preheat the oven to 350 ºF (176 ºC).

Take the pork chops out of the refrigerator so they come to room temperature. Season both sides of the pork chops with Chinese Five Spice, salt and black pepper.

Cut the bottom stem off the escarole and wash the leaves well since they tend to hold dirt.


Before or after washing the leaves, tear them into bite-sized pieces. Ideally the leaves should be as dry as possible before cooking them. A salad spinner works well for this.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil (or coconut oil, or a combination of olive oil and butter). When the oil is nice and hot add the chops, searing for 3 minutes without moving them. Flip the chops and sear for 1 minute more then put the pan in the oven.

Start checking the chops after 3 minutes to gauge if they’re done. The temperature in the thickest part of the chop should be around 140 ºF. (60 ºC).

Pork Chops

Remove the chops from the skillet and set the meat aside. Put the skillet back on the stove over medium-high heat and immediately add the vinegar.

As it boils scrape the bits of meat up off the bottom of the skillet. The vinegar will quickly evaporate – when it’s evaporated by at least half and almost gone add the butter.


Swirl it around the skillet, when it’s mostly melted add the maple syrup.

Add the escarole. It probably won’t all fit in the skillet at once. Let the first batch wilt a little bit, then add the rest. Sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 to 8 minutes until the leaves are tender but not totally limp. Overcooked escarole tends to be soggy or even slimy, so get it out of the skillet sooner rather than later.

Saute Escarole

Finish the pork and escarole with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Escarole and Pork

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Loves me my pork!

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 30th, 2013
    • I just picked up cleaned pig intestines to make some sweet Italian pork sausage. But now I will play with A Chinese 5 Star blend. Thanks MDA!

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 30th, 2013
  2. This looks good – I’m keen to try the escarole as a veg rather than a salad, I just hope it’s not as bitter as bok choi as the kids turned their noses up at that! I tend to throw 5 spice at most things (great with salmon) so this should do well in our house.

    Grokesque wrote on March 30th, 2013
    • Does look worth trying :).. And that’s like doing “wilted lettuce” I guess.

      Being a bacon and marmalade fan, I’m guessing I’ll like this alternative taste too…

      Sally wrote on March 30th, 2013
  3. Salmon would also work well in this recipe.

    Geoff wrote on March 30th, 2013
    • The dude abides. (Love the avatar)

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 30th, 2013
      • Yeah, I dig your style too, man. You got a whole news anchor thing going.

        Geoff wrote on March 30th, 2013
        • If you are into that whole “news anchor” brevity thing….

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 30th, 2013
  4. Not two hours ago I was looking for a good pork chop recipe. Nice work.

    Ceolwulf wrote on March 30th, 2013
  5. Looks good, though I personally would not add vinegar to a cast iron skillet. Not unless you feel like re-seasoning it.

    Todd S. wrote on March 30th, 2013
    • The flip side being: is your skillet seasoned enough to handle vinegar?

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 30th, 2013
      • I don’t know about yours, but my skillet’s seasoned enough to handle plutonium. :)

        Tom wrote on April 1st, 2013
  6. Looks good. Although I’m a little skeptical of olive oil’s ability to withstand the necessary temperatures without oxidation, so I would be inclined to go with the coconut oil.

    Dane wrote on March 30th, 2013
    • Right along with the butter…

      Nocona wrote on March 31st, 2013
  7. Nice recipe Mark! Thank you…cooking tomorrow :-)

    Alexandra wrote on March 30th, 2013
  8. Always looking for good greens recipes. This looks quick and easy, thanks!

    Emily wrote on March 30th, 2013
  9. What is chinese five spice? What it is made of exactly?

    Vollzeitvater wrote on March 31st, 2013
    • Oh, i see, it is some sauce?

      Vollzeitvater wrote on March 31st, 2013
    • I just bought it… it was $2.49 in our local Asian store. The ingredients: Cinnamon, Star Anise, Fennel, Ginger, Cloves, White Pepper and Licorice Root.

      B. C. wrote on March 31st, 2013
      • Thanks!

        Vollzeitvater wrote on April 1st, 2013
      • Then I think the name should be 7 spice. But I guess it’s like allspice doesn’t have ALL spices in it.

        Sounds interesting I never worked with it myself. I will pick some up next time I get in to town.

        John wrote on April 9th, 2013
  10. Looks good, but I’m not familiar with Chinese Five Spice

    W. L. wrote on March 31st, 2013
  11. Why does the oven have to be heated? Am I missing something?

    Laura wrote on April 1st, 2013
    • I did a double-take, too! Start the pork on the stovetop in the skillet, then put the skillet in the oven, then move it back to the stovetop.

      (4 total minutes on the stovetop, then check ’em in the oven every 3 minutes.)

      I would just put a lid on the skillet instead (quicker and less energy.)

      Tom wrote on April 1st, 2013
  12. These look amazing, thanks for the recipe!

    Yvette wrote on April 1st, 2013
  13. Always looking for healthy recipes and this looks like one to add to my recipe collection. Love pork and chinese spices so can’t wait to try it!

    Clare M wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  14. I just made this but used kale and red onion as the veggie. Green onions sprinkled on top too. YUMMMMM!!! Also, I probably used more than 1 tsp of 5-spice though…I just shake it on.
    Great recipe!! Super easy and a good way to change up my pork dishes.

    NicoleK wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  15. This brought my appetite back after reading about your head cheese :)

    This is a recipe I can handle. Thanks.

    John wrote on April 9th, 2013
    • At the suggestion of the produce guy at my Whole Foods, I used Collard Greens instead of escarole (they didn’t have any on my shopping day). OMG, so yummy!! We’re planning to have a dinner party on Saturday and use this as our meal.

      Denise wrote on April 29th, 2013
  16. I just made this earlier this week. Dead easy and delicious! I also cooked the pork chops entirely stovetop and set them aside while I did the escarole. The escarole was the perfect flavor–slightly bitter and slightly sweet. I’ll definitely make this again.

    Amy wrote on June 13th, 2015

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