The Lazy Man’s Guide to Braising: Spring Pork Chops
Braising seems to belong to winter in exactly the same way that grilling does to summer. And yet….I like to grill in winter. I do it all the time. And it’s not like I live in a cabin.. The nights are still cool, and even when they get warm, it’s not like I live in a cabin. A freon fortress is my summer home. So why should I give up on braising? The only difference is that I braise smaller things; things like pork chops.
My first braise of the spring was, in fact, a very large pork chop cooked with a lot of white wine. I will say here that I have never been overfond of big, thick porkchops. Or for that matter thick steaks. More than one inch of thickness and you’re no longer dealing with a slab or plane of meat; you’re dealing with a truncated cylinder, a mini-roast, and such cuts are notoriously hard to flavor. You put all kinds of things on the outside, but once sliced, you are looking at only a tiny portion of the whole with any seasoning at all. Yes, you can make a board dressing, and I do that all the time. But there is something to be said for meat that is cooked all the way through by an intensely flavorful liquid – especially something like a pork chop, that tends, at least in the case of big center-cut loin chops, to be on the tough side.
I didn’t really think about this braise, other than remember not to drink all the white wine I had. I put salt and pepper on the chop, and seared off the chop in oil and butter. So far, so good! I jacked up the heat so that a lot of brown bits would stick to the pan, too. Then I added enough wine to come halfway up the chop, threw in some sage leaves I had lying around, covered the pan, and stuck it in a slow oven. Done! Talk about the lazy man’s recipe! I know that many recipes call for stock, and fennel pollen, and all kinds of other things I don’t have lying around. But so what? When I took the chop out it was moist and rich and tender, and I had a whole pan filled with porky, sagey wine. I cooked that down, thickened it with some butter and lemon, and made something along the lines of a Francese sauce. If only I had thought to bread the thing first! Then it would have been really great.
I am fat, so I didn’t make a big pot of minute rice, or better still one of those flavored pilafs that come in a box in the dry goods aisle. That would have absorbed the sauce, and little bits of pork would have stray rice grains clinging to it. But you can’t have everything you want, not when you’re a lazy man.
Lazy Man’s Pork Chops
1. Salt and pepper those chops. Heat some butter and oil. Sear them, without moving, in an uncrowded pan, for six minutes on one side and one minute on the other. Remove from pan. Lather, rinse, repeat.
2. Put all the chops back in the pan. Pour white wine in until it rises halfway up the pork chops. Throw in some sage leaves. Add some smashed garlic! Or rosemary. Or whatever is around, herb wise.
3. Cover and remove to a slow (275 degree) oven. Cook for 15 minutes or so. Remove.
4. Take out the chops, turn the heat up under the sauce, and let some of it cook off. When it is reduced by about half. squeeze one whole large lemon in (and a little zest if you remember), along with a big chunk of butter. Over high heat, mix it all up until the sauce lightens and thickens. Pour it over the pork chops. Eat them, preferably over the sink.