Nothing wrong with meat and two veg.
I am not a huge fan of big slabs of meat but occasionally I get a craving for a big lump of steak or a pork chop. This was one of those days.
More so than beef or even chicken, pig meat is incredibly cheap in Ireland at the moment. This is probably thanks to intensive farming and the life of the average pig is probably not a happy one. If you are willing to pay a little more you can easily find organic free range pork where the pigs have a much more pleasant life before they get the chop. No pun intended. For most, the option of considering animal welfare is out of reach financially as they struggle to pay bills and put food on the table so let’s not judge.
My childhood memories of meat and two veg are not happy ones. Overcooked veg and leathery meat prepared by overworked parents with not much interest in food other than its necessary function as fuel. But plain old pork chops can be delicious. The first time I remember enjoying a pork chop was as a young boy when a neighbour a generation younger than my own parents was tasked with looking after me for the day. I sighed internally as I was served pork chops for dinner as I was expecting the same dried out fare I got at home. But this was a revelation to me, the chops were succulent and juicy and were served with a delicious pepper and mushroom sauce.
Now in fairness to my hard working parents, it is very easy to overcook a pork chop. Like chicken it is a meat that can harbour harmful bacteria so the tendency is always to cook the crap out of it until there is no taste left. Woody Allen joked about his mother, ‘running the chicken through the deflavourising machine.’
Like a roast chicken, pork should be cooked only until the juices run clear, that is, when you cut into the thickest part of them and there is no pink. Pork chops have a natural indicator that they are cooked and safe to eat. White meat cooked, pink meat uncooked. There is no place in the home for medium or rare pork. There is only cooked pork and potentially dangerous pork.
There is a modern school of thought which does allow for pig meat to be a little pink as long as the meat has reached a temperature that will kill all the bacteria, but this involves temperature probes and so on so let’s leave that to the professionals.
I was once served some pinkish sausages as part of a pretentious breakfast I had in a small town cafe, the staff were hovering and asked if everything was ok. I raised an eyebrow as it was just a fried breakfast and difficult to get wrong. ‘Yeah it’s fine’ I said, but that was before I had cut into the lovely looking artisan sausages. They were pink on the inside. I tried a mouthful and they were also barely warm on the inside, my gut reaction was to spit it out. Now maybe they had cooled down a little between the kitchen and being served to me but I simply couldn’t stomach them. The hovering staff noticed and after a brief conversation about the safety of pink pork they offered me a partial refund. I’d rather just have had a cooked sausage!
I’m waffling so let’s get on with it.
This was a hearty meal for one greedy man so scale up or down accordingly.
Fried Pork chops with spuds, mushroom sauce and broccoli
- 2 small pork chops (provenance unknown so let’s not think about that)
- For the sauce;
- A small knob of butter
- A splash of oil
- 150 grams mushrooms sliced or chopped to your liking
- Half an onion or a large shallot chopped as finely as you can be bothered
- A clove or two of garlic
- A good slug (100mls or so) of dry white wine (optional but gives the sauce a nice tang)
- 100mls or so of creme fraiche which was left over from my chicken mushroom rice thing. You can always use normal cream
- As much chopped parsley as you like
- A good pinch of salt and as much freshly ground pepper as you like
- Green veg of your liking, I used the last of my head of broccoli that has made me three meals now!
- Potatoes to your liking. I thought I had some spuds lying around to make mash but didn’t so I went around to the convenience shop and all they had were baby potatoes in a microwavable bag for a quid. Very convenient indeed!
Get your prep done. Once you have everything ready, this all comes together quite quickly. If possible, the pork chops you should take out of the fridge well before you fry them to allow them to get up to room temperature (random Jewish syntax there!), pat them dry with some kitchen towels to remove any excess moisture and season them well on both sides with salt and pepper. Whenever any recipe mentions seasoning anything, they just mean add salt and pepper. Wash your hands and any surface the pork touched when you are finished handling the chops. Stray raw pork or chicken bacteria will make you sick.
Chop up your onions, garlic and parsley and get your potatoes ready for whatever method you are using. A nice soft mash would be ideal but I just microwaved my convenient potatoes and they were fine.
Get a small pan of water on the boil for your veg.
The potatoes and sauce take the longest in this recipe but the chops also need to be fried so there is a bit of juggling going on. If you prefer you can make the sauce first and put it aside for a few minutes and reheat when everything else is ready.
For the sauce; Melt the butter with the oil in a middling sized saucepan and gently fry the onion until it softens. Add the garlic and sliced mushrooms and fry until the mushrooms are soft but have not started to collapse and release their liquid. Add the wine and simmer until it has reduced by about half. Stir in the creme fraiche and parsley and heat through. Turn the heat down very low or put aside until all else is ready.
Fry your chops.
Just a quick aside here. I despise the term ‘pan fried’ that has become so fashionable in foody circles in the last few years. It’s as if plain old frying is just common and unappealing and unhealthy but ‘pan frying’ makes it nice and middle class and acceptable. Piss off! What else would you fry anything in but a pan? A toaster? An eggcup? Don’t even get me started on ‘tray roasted’!
I think I’ll go and make myself a cup of tea to calm down, with some freshly kettle boiled water of course. I want to swear a lot right now!
Put a couple of knobs of butter and some oil in your frying pan. Butter has a low burning point but tastes delicious so the addition of the oil brings the temperature of the pan up while stopping the butter from burning. You don’t need searing hot but you want hot. Gently place your pork chops in the hot butter and oil. A tongs is always useful to protect your hands and arms when frying anything. Leave them alone for a few minutes to cook and brown. Don’t cover the pan or the chops will cook in the steam and end up overdone. You’ll see the colour of the chops change at the side as the heat rises through them. After two or three minutes, depending on the thickness of your cut, flip them over to cook the other side. Give them another two or three minutes then remove them from the pan. You should have your veg on to boil now by the way. Test the chops to check they are sufficiently cooked. Cut through the thickest part and if there is no pink just leave them there to rest. If they need another couple of minutes return them to the pan. When they are ready put them aside while you gather together the rest of your meal.
‘Assemble’ is another foody term that annoys me, like you are putting together flat pack furniture, but assemble we shall. Plate up your pork chops and spuds and green veg and smother the hopefully juicy chops with your creamy mushroom sauce.
Nothing wrong with meat and two veg!