I have been playing with pork. Seriously. Some of us remember juicy pork chops as a regular dinner when we were kids, but now that the piggies are more slender, pork chops dry out if you look at them wrong.
It all began because my protagonist, Sophie, was shopping and suspected Mars and Bernie might show up for dinner. You'll have to read THE DIVA SERVES HIGH TEA to know why. Sophie picked up extra pork chops. No problem, I knew just how she was going to cook them. But when I tried my idea, they were woefully under-cooked. Ick.
What had I done wrong? I was about to abandon the recipe when a total stranger in the grocery store grabbed two-inch thick pork chops and told me they were his favorite! Hmm. So I tried again. But this time, I went to one of my favorite TV chefs who never leads me astray. Cook for 40 minutes. Ah. That was much longer than I had cooked them before.
They were shoe soles. I considered having Sophie buy something else. But darn it, I really loved the sauce! I bought more pork chops. I studied the cooking times in recipes. They were all over the place! From a few minutes to almost an hour!
Through much trial and error, I have uncovered the secrets to great pork chops. I don't care if your favorite never-fail TV host tells you otherwise. The first key is the thickness of the chops. Bone in or out - it doesn't matter. It's the thickness that makes the difference. Pork chops 1-inch thick or under may be cooked in the pan as I have here. Pork chops over 1-inch thick require a slightly different treatment. Note that if you have very thin pork chops, you may need to reduce the browning and cooking times.
The second key in order to avoid a dreadful unchewably tough pork chop, is that one must have a thermometer. I can't emphasize that enough. You simply cannot rely on the time in a recipe. Sure, a recipe can give you a ballpark, but if the thickness or temperature vary even a little bit, you can overcook the meat. I now shoot for 140. Once the meat registers higher than that, you're in dangerous territory. Remove pork chops from the heat at once at 140 and let them rest. They will continue to cook a bit and end up just where you want them, nicely moist.
If you don't have a great all around thermometer for the kitchen, I heartily recommend the Thermapen. I understand they have a newer version but my old classic one does the job just fine.
The recipe with the fabulous sauce will be in THE DIVA SERVES HIGH TEA. But this one is also delicious, especially for those who crave mushrooms. Truly, this is such a simple sauce, but I would have been happy to eat just the sauce over rice and forget those pesky pork chops altogether! Which leads me to think it might not be a bad vegetarian recipe without the pork.
Please note that this recipe works for pork chops that are 1-inch thick or less. I will post the method for cooking thicker pork chops in a few months. This is a very nice weeknight recipe because it doesn't take too long. If you don't have Northwoods seasoning on hand, use your favorite herbs, but be sure to add some salt to the flour if you go with herbs.
1 1-pound package white or cremini mushrooms
4 garlic cloves
sunflower or canola oil
3 pork chops, one-inch thick
salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon Pensey's Northwoods seasoning (or you can substitute your favorite herbs)
1 cup chicken stock
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
Slice the mushrooms, chop the onion, and mince the garlic.
Heat 1-2 tablespoons oil in a large pan over medium high. While the oil is heating, pat the pork chops dry and lightly salt and pepper. Mix the Northwoods seasoning with the flour and dredge the pork chops through it. Brown the chops in the hot pan for 3-4 minutes on each side. No longer than that!
Remove the pork chops from the pan, add a tablespoon of oil, the onion, and the mushrooms. Turn the heat down so they won't burn. Cook until soft, stirring occasionally and add the garlic. Return the pork chops and any juices to the pan, and pour in the chicken stock. Reduce temperature and cover. Simmer 4-5 minutes, then check the internal temperature of the meat. You're shooting for 140. When it reaches 140, remove the meat from the pan and allow to rest at least five minutes. The sauce can stay on a low heat. Just before serving, remove mushroom sauce from heat and stir in 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream.
Slice the pork chop or serve whole over rice. Spoon the sauce over top.
|Lots of mushrooms!|
|Brown the pork chops.|
|Cook the mushrooms and onions.|
|Return the pork to the pan with 1 cup of chicken stock.|
|Serve over rice.|