This dish brings together two of Italy’s great cheeses and one of its famous sausages. Creamy Fontina, a cow’s milk cheese, is used for the fonduta, the Italian word for fondue. Parmagiano-Reggiano is another cow’s milk cheese, but it has a granular texture and rich, sharp texture. Mortadella is similar to bologna.
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Mist 4 (4-ounce) ramekins with olive oil spray.
Place the fennel and cream in a food processor and pulse until the fennel is finely chopped.
Beat the egg in a medium bowl. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and fennel-cream mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
Place one-quarter of the fennel mixture in each ramekin and bake for 25 minutes until the tops are slightly brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven. (Leave the oven at 375°F to cook the pork chops.)
Let the ramekins sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Rim each ramekin with a knife, turn upside and unmold on a plate. Keep warm until the chops are done.
While the fennel ramekins are cooking, prepare the pork chops. With a sharp knife, make horizontal cuts in each chop, creating a pocket about 2 inches deep.
Place the mortadella in a food processor and pulse until it is finely ground.
Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium sauté pan or skillet. Add shallots and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add the mortadella and sage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mortadella is slightly brown and has rendered its fat. Remove the mortadella mixture from the pan and allow to cool. Discard any pan drippings.
After the mortadella has cooled, add black pepper and mix in the egg white. Stuff one-quarter of the mixture into the slit in each pork chop. Season each chop on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, ovenproof sauté pan over high heat. Add the chops and brown on both sides. Remove to the oven and roast uncovered for 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the chicken broth in a small saucepot over medium heat. Add the grated Fontina cheese and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, place the chops on four plates and drizzle each chop with fonduta. Place an unmolded fennel gratinata portion beside each chop.
Stuffed Pork Chops with Brussels Sprouts and Crispy Pancetta Follow the main recipe, but instead of fennel ramekins, parboil 2 cups of trimmed Brussels sprouts, cut lengthwise, in a quart of boiling water for 2 minutes. Cool in a bowl of ice water and strain. In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and add 1 ounce of chopped pancetta. Cook until pancetta is brown and remove from pan. Add sprouts to the pan cut side down and cook until brown. Flip sprouts over and cook for about 3 minutes. Add pancetta and 1 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic. Mix well and remove from pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Stuffed Pork Chops and Sautéed Escarole with Anchovy and Garlic Follow the main recipe, but instead of fennel ramekins, cook 6 cups (3/4 pound) of escarole cut into 1-inch pieces in 1 quart of salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Strain and transfer to an ice-water bath.* When escarole is completely cool strain it in a colander and set aside. Over medium heat in a medium sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add 2 anchovy filets, chopped small, and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 clove of chopped garlic and remove pan from heat. Slowly add parboiled escarole to the pan and return to medium heat. Sauté escarole for about 3 minutes, incorporating 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
* Escarole will maintain its bright green color if it is shocked in an ice-water bath after being cooked in salted boiling water.