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
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
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.
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.