Skillet Pork Chops, Eight Ways
The essential sear-and-simmer technique that leaves you with any number of excellent pan sauces (see the variations).
4 center-cut loin pork chops, about 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more if not using butter
½ cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon minced garlic or 2 tablespoons minced shallot, onion, or scallion
1 /2 cup chicken, beef, or vegetable stock or water, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon butter (or more olive oil instead, especially if it’s flavorful)
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
1. Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the olive oil; as soon as the first wisps of smoke rise from the oil, add the chops and turn the heat to high. Brown the chops on both sides, moving them around so they develop good color all over, no longer than 4 minutes total and preferably less.
2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the wine and the garlic and cook, turning the chops once or twice, until the wine is all but evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the stock, turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning the chops once or twice, until the chops are tender but not dry. When done, they will be firm to the touch, their juices will run just slightly pink, and, when you cut into them (which you should do if you’re at all unsure of their doneness), the color will be rosy at first glance but quickly turn pale.
3. Transfer the chops to a platter. If the pan juices are very thin, cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced slightly. If they are scarce (unlikely), add another 1/2cup stock or water; cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced slightly. Then stir in the butter or a few drops of oil over medium heat; add the lemon juice, pour over the chops, garnish with parsley, and serve.
Pork Chops with Sherry-Garlic Sauce. In Step 3, after removing the chops, add 1/2 cup not-too-dry sherry (oloroso or amontillado) and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced slightly. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon minced garlic and continue to cook until the liquid becomes syrupy, about 5 minutes. Omit the butter. Stir in 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves and the juice of 1/2lemon. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour over the chops, garnish, and serve.
Pork Chops with Mustard. In Step 3, stir in 1 tablespoon or more of Dijon mustard with the lemon juice (some capers are good here, too, as is a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce). Finish as directed.
Pork Chops with Sweet Soy Sauce. Use neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or butter. Substitute mirin (or equal parts honey and water) for the wine, a mixture of equal parts soy sauce and water for the stock, and rice vinegar for the lemon juice. In Step 2, when you add the garlic, add 5 or 6 slices fresh ginger. Instead of the parsley, garnish with 1/2cup chopped scallion.
Pork Chops with Apples or Pears. In Step 3, after removing the chops, cook 2 cups peeled, cored, and sliced pears in the remaining liquid, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan as the apples cook and adding about 1/2 cup more white wine or stock if necessary. When the pear slices are soft, after about 5 minutes, stir in 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice. Omit the butter. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour over the chops, garnish, and serve.
Pork Chops with Onions and Peppers. Steps 1 and 2 remain the same; undercook the chops slightly and heat an oven to warm. In Step 3, after removing the chops, put them in the warm oven. Stir in 2 cups thinly sliced onion and 2 cups seeded and sliced bell peppers, any color but green. Stir, re-cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Uncover and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 5 more minutes. Moisten with 1/2 cup stock, then cook until most of the stock is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Omit the butter. Stir in 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or vinegar, taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve over the chops. A teaspoon of minced fresh marjoram, oregano, or thyme leaves (or 1 /2 teaspoon of dried herb) or a tablespoon or two of minced fresh basil or parsley is good stirred into the vegetables just as they finish cooking.
Pork Chops with Butter and Shallots. Do the initial browning in half oil, half butter. In Step 3, after removing the chops, pour off all the liquid and add 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4cup minced shallot to the skillet. Cook over medium heat until the shallot softens, 3 or 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup stock or water and cook, stirring, until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup minced fresh chervil or basil leaves or 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon leaves and stir. Add 1 tablespoon more butter and the lemon juice and pour over the chops. Serve, garnished with a bit more of the minced fresh herb.
Pork Chops with Prunes and Cream. Use butter instead of olive oil in Step 1. For Step 2, add 2 sprigs fresh thyme and 2 lightly smashed (and peeled) cloves garlic and cook for a minute. Add 1 cup of the wine (or use cider if you like) and 1 cup pitted prunes or dried apricots. Reduce the heat so the liquid bubbles steadily, cover, and cook just until the chops are tender, as directed. For Step 3, reduce the liquid to about 1 /2cup, reduce the heat to medium, and stir in 1/2cup heavy cream. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick. Add more cream as you like until the sauce has the consistency you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley leaves if you like and serve.
• Total Time: 30 Minutes
Source: How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (4 servings)