This Tasty Tuesday, I took a challenge: pork chops. I cannot tell a lie–I typically avoid pork chops on menus as I look at them with a skeptical eye. Will the kitchen overcook them? Will they taste like chewy tires? Put simply, they’re usually not that appealing to me. In recent years, however, I’ve stolen bites of Alex’s pork chops at Downtown Grill, and I have been impressed with every one. I think my new appreciation for pork chops stems from a simple difference in preparation: the avoidance of cooking them well done.
My friend Steven Fulbright, a fellow Hugh Acheson acolyte, asked me yesterday if I’d ever made Hugh’s recipe for smothered pork chops with chanterelles from A New Turn in the South. When I told him I hadn’t, he raved about how great they were, so I knew that I had to try them out. What I ended up with was a take on Hugh’s simple, yet elegant dish, both out of creativity and necessity–I couldn’t find chanterelles at the Fresh Market, so I selected shiitakes instead. I changed up a few other things, but the simple cooking directions for the meat in Hugh’s recipe made these pork chops, in my humble opinion, pretty darn great. Seared on the outside and cooked through to medium on the inside, these bone-in chops are simple to make and saved by the accuracy of a meat thermometer. If you don’t have one, you can buy an inexpensive one at the grocery store or at your local kitchen store–Maconites, go to Robinson Home, of course!
The simple olive oil, salt, and pepper combination on the pork chop allows the meat to shine on its own merit. The addition of the thin mushroom gravy adds an earthiness to the dish. The pork chop is set upon a half-and-half mash of baked cauliflower, yukon gold potatoes, and garlic, and some quick-fry okra adds a crispiness to the smooth mash. The pickled cucumber adds just a touch of sour to cut the creaminess of the mash and stands up nicely to the smooth flavor of the gravy.
Moral of the story: if you think you don’t like pork chops, try, try, again.
Smothered Pork Chop with Shiitakes, Quick-Fry Okra, Cauliflower and Potato Mash, and Pickled Cucumber
2 bone-in, thick cut pork chops (about 6-8 oz. each)
1/2 head cauliflower
2 small yukon gold potatoes
5 garlic cloves
3 Tbsp. olive oil (2 Tbsp. for chops, 1 Tbsp. for cauliflower and potatoes)
2 cups fresh okra, sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup pecorino or parmesan cheese
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. butter (1 Tbsp. for gravy, 1 Tbsp. for mash)
2 Tbsp. half and half, separated
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. fresh thyme
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
handful of pickled cucumbers slices, cut into 1/4 inch vertical slices (I thinly sliced up one cucumber on Sunday and threw the slices in a pickle jar with leftover pickle juice–easiest thing ever. The crispness of the cucumber is still intact!)
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Rough chop the cauliflower and potatoes into golf ball-sized pieces. In a small bowl, add the cauliflower, potatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper and mix to combine. Wrap the veggie mixture in a makeshift aluminum foil pouch, place the pouch on a cookie sheet, and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. In a food processor, add the baked potato and cauliflower pieces. Also add the garlic, but be sure to squeeze the cloves out of the garlic paper before adding them to the bowl of the food processor. Next, add 1 Tbsp. butter, the pecorino cheese, 1 Tbsp. half and half, green onions, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the bowl. Pulse until desired consistency is reached; set aside.
Raise the heat in the oven to 400 F. Heat a frying pan to medium-high heat and add 2 Tbsp. olive oil. While the oil is heating, lightly salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops. Sear the pork chops on both sides (about 4 minutes each), then place the pork chops on a raised roasting pan and let finish in the oven for about 7-10 minutes. To check to see if they’re done, place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thicker pork chop, right near the bone. When the temperature reaches 150 F, you know that they’re at medium. Take the out of the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes.
While the chops are in the oven, add the sliced okra to the remaining olive oil you seared the pork chops in. Stirring occasionally, let the okra cook up for about 10 minutes, browning on the edges.
During this time, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium pan over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to bubble, add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Next, add the flour and stir to combine, then slowly whisk in the chicken stock. Turn the heat down to low and let reduce for about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the thyme, 1 Tbsp. half and half, and lemon juice.
To assemble: add about 1 cup of cauliflower potato mash to the plate. Lean the pork chop on the mash, then arrange some okra around the pork chop. Add your desired amount of mushroom gravy to the top of the chop, then sprinkle some of the picked cucumber on the top. Enjoy!