Real food, real quick: Wine-braised Chops and Potatoes are weeknight fast, comfort food good

by Terry B on October 20, 2010

Dijon mustard, tarragon and garlic add flavor, complexity to quick and easy Wine-braised Pork Chops and Potatoes. Recipe below.


I like to think I’m a fairly nonjudgmental person. Live and let live, celebrate our differences, walk a mile in another person’s shoes… Until I’m in the grocery store check-out line.

As you watch fellow shoppers unload their carts, piling box after bag after frozen package of processed “edible foodlike substances” (as Michael Pollan calls them) on the conveyor belt, it’s hard not to ask how they made it through the produce department without picking up a single fruit or vegetable. Or where are the eggs? The milk? Even the fresh meat, for that matter? And it’s easy to see why obesity, childhood diabetes and heart disease are reaching epidemic proportions in our country.

So it was particularly refreshing to visit the kitchen of four recent college graduates this weekend and see real food. Squash, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, lettuce, garlic. Eggs, milk, cheese. Oatmeal, flour, brown rice, jars of herbs, bottles of hot sauce. You know, ingredients.

The four roommates admit to a weakness for the occasional pizza, but they also all take turns cooking real meals. And they eat healthier and cheaper because of it.

It’s easy to give in to a weakness for pizza these days—or other carry-outs. Everyone’s days, nights and even weekends are increasingly filled with to-do lists, and it’s easy to forget just how quickly you can throw a real meal together. Vegetable stir fries, pan-grilled turkey burgers, sautéed salmon fillets, even hearty lentil soups can often be on the table in the time it would take the pizza guy to get to your door. One key to making it happen, as the roommates seem to have discovered, is having ingredients on hand. Fresh produce backed by a well-stocked pantry—canned beans, pastas, rice, canned tomatoes and tomato paste… For more ideas on stocking your pantry, visit Lydia’s aptly named The Perfect Pantry. Pick up some chicken or chops or fish on the way home, if you like, and dinner is halfway done.

One of my favorite kinds of quick weeknight meals is one that doesn’t seem quick. These braised pork chops and potatoes are a perfect example. Solid, satisfying comfort food, they conjure up pot roasts and stews that take hours to cook, but they’re on the table in half an hour or so. Wine, some fresh or dried herbs and a little Dijon mustard elevate what is essentially meat and potatoes. Add a side salad or steamed broccoli or green beans and you’ve made something worthy of the name dinner.

Wine-braised Pork Chops and Potatoes
Serves 2

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 bone-in pork chops, about 1 inch thick
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried tarragon (see Kitchen Notes for other herb ideas)
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Rinse potato wedges in cold water, pat dry with paper towels and toss with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Pat pork chops dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof nonstick lidded skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chops on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer chops to plate and add potatoes to pan in a single layer, adding another drizzle of oil, if necessary. Brown potato wedges on both sides, about 5 minutes total, and transfer to plate.

Reduce heat to medium and sauté onions until just softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and tarragon to pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add wine and water to pan, stirring and scraping up browned bits. Return chops to pan with any accumulated juices and arrange potato wedges around them in a single layer. Cover pan with lid and transfer to oven. Cook until chops are cooked through and potato wedges are tender, about 10 minutes.

Transfer chops and potatoes to platter and tent with foil. Set pan over medium flame and reduce liquid slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in Dijon mustard. Plate chops and potatoes and spoon sauce over chops. Serve.

Kitchen Notes

This recipe invites experimentation. Add in different vegetables (keeping their cooking times in mind), try different braising liquids and try marinating the chops, if you like. Regarding herbs, the first time I made this dish, I used fresh sage—because we had it in the yard and because sage and pork play nicely together. This time, I used tarragon because it plays nicely with mustard and with pork. You could also use rosemary (also great with pork), thyme, herbes de Provence… If you use fresh herbs, use a tablespoon or more. With dried, keep it at a teaspoonful; dry herbs are more intense and can easily overpower the dish.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

altadenahiker October 20, 2010 at 4:02 am

I love that first paragraph. I do get a bit judgemental and snoopy when I stand in line.

Jason Sandeman October 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Oh, I totally agree with you. I am not so sure about the diabetes problem though. I cook all my own food, and avoid the over-processed stuff like the plague, and I am still a diabetic. What I do agree with though is when I see someone at Walmart, scanning through their 5 second bacon, packages of “product” (not even food) there is one correlation – waist size. You would be hard pressed to find someone who is rail thin living on that crap. Just saying!

Terry B October 20, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Thanks, Altadenahiker! On the rare (or so I tell myself) junk food runs I make, I sometimes want to tell the person in line behind me that I just bought a bunch of produce and real food the day before.

Jason—You’re absolutely right that not all diabetes can be attributed to poor nutrition. But there has been a marked increase in cases of diabetes that matches the current rise in obesity. And type 2 diabetes, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes, is now increasingly common in kids.

Dime Store Foodie October 21, 2010 at 4:19 pm

It is very sad sometimes to go to the market and see people with their carts loaded with food that you know is killing them. I hope with the food movement I see going on here in the states that once again people will increasingly see the value both in body, mind, and I think spirit, that good wholesome fresh food has. I know just in my group of office mates there is a lot more talk about cooking good fresh food at home, I am even trying to get the girls to can their own veggies! By the way, the pork looks delicious and super easy!

Eeka October 23, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Mmmm! I have been seeing some very attractive pork chops in the market, and this sounds like the perfect recipe for them.

I know I caused raised eyebrows in the checkout line when, en route to an impromptu party, I checked out with a 6-pack of beer, a bag of chips… and a few cans of cat food (the last can had gone for kitty’s dinner). The checkout guy asked if the cats and I were having a party…

Terry B October 23, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Dime Store Foodie—I hope so too. Something has to reverse the depressing trends in diet-related health issues.

Eeka—What a great story and witty clerk!

katie October 24, 2010 at 6:35 pm

When we lived in Ireland I was astounded seeing trolleys full of white bread and canned beans in tomato sauce (for the favorite ‘Beans on toast) and sweet rolls. Nothing else. Not processed but not healthy either. I was just in the US and couldn’t believe all the packaged foods available. Finding ‘ingredients’ can be a challenge. Great recipe!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) October 25, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Thanks so much for the shoutout! This is the time of year when I go through my pantry, discarding things that didn’t survive the summer and taking inventory of what I need to have on hand for the colder months. One of my readers told me she does this every year when we change the clocks — a great way to remember!

pinky black October 26, 2010 at 8:09 am

a perfect recipe for christmas! we Asians love pork chops with rice, especially black rice. i love the recipe. it’s an experimental recipe i could innovate anytime, any season of the year. can this recipe be effective if chicken is used?

Terry B October 26, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Thanks, Katie! Not sure whether it’s reassuring or disturbing that America isn’t alone in its bad eating habits.

What a great idea, Lydia! Change the batteries in the smoke detectors and purge the pantry all at the same time.

Pinky—You absolutely could use chicken, such as thighs and drumsticks. But it takes a little longer to cook than the pork, so don’t add the potatoes back to the pan right away when you put the chicken in the oven. Just add them for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time.

Chris and Amy October 27, 2010 at 2:28 pm

A tasty weeknight meal. Thanks for sharing!

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