I had a blog post written about hollandaise sauce until I made dinner last night. Then things changed. As I have written before, I make pork chops on a frequent basis because of their ease and consistency in the taste category, but I do not usually venture outside of that recipe. However, in this month's Cooks Illustrated, there is a curious recipe about pan seared pork chops that intrigued me. Intrigue turned out to be a great thing, because these chops were better than Lost last night (and that's saying something).
The key with these chops is the salting. I have spoken before on brining meat, and pork is probably the biggest in need of a good salt water soak. But if you try this with a pan seared chop, the meat does not really develop a crust. So instead it was suggested to salt the meat, leave it sitting on a rack for about an hour, baking it shortly, and then finishing the pork in a hot pan which also yields a pan sauce. Too many steps says you? Suck it up, say I. You can make this dish (and sides) pretty easily as most of the steps involve the meat lying prone on a rack or in an oven.
I altered the recipe very little, because frankly there is no need to. Since I am trying to eat butter in moderation at the moment, instead of using 3T of butter in the pan sauce, I used 1T and instead saved a few tablespoons of the chicken broth and mixed them with 1t cornstarch. I am listing this method in the recipe, but if you would rather the butter, scratch the cornstarch and reduce the sauce a bit further before adding the butter.
Pan Seared Pork Chops
4 1 ½ inch thick pork loin chops (bone in or bone out)
1T vegetable oil
1 shallot minced (or ¼ cup finely minced onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 t chopped fresh thyme (or ¼ t dry chopped)
½ cup white wine
¾ cup chicken stock
¼ t white wine or rice wine vinegar
1 T cold butter
1 t cornstarch
Pat chops dry with paper towel. Salt each chop all over with 1 t kosher salt (or ½ t table salt). Place on wire rack over a baking sheet and leave at room temperature for 45 minutes (no less!). Heat oven to 275°F. Season chops with pepper and place in oven to bake, 35-40 minutes or until the middle of the chops reads 120°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from oven.
Heat 1 T vegetable oil in large skillet over medium high heat until almost smoking. Place 2 chops in pan and sear on each side until browned, about 2 minutes each side. You might have to lift chops once to redistribute oil and prevent burning. Remove chops to plate and repeat with other 2 chops. Reduce pan heat to medium low. Using your tongs (see the picture), sear the chops on their ends until golden brown and the interior of the chops is 140-145°F. Place on plate, cover with foil, and let rest for about 10 minutes while you make the sauce.
Drain off all but 1 t of remaining oil. Return heat to medium. Add shallot and garlic, stirring often until softened, about 1 minute. Reserving 3T chicken stock, add the stock and wine to the pan to deglaze, scraping up any bits on the bottom. Cook until reduced to about ¾ cup remains, abut 5 minutes. Mix corn starch and chicken stock and add to pan. Stir until thickened. If too thin, reduce sauce slightly, and if too thick add a few more tablespoons chicken stock. Turn off heat and add thyme and vinegar. Stir in butter, season with salt and pepper. Serve with chops.