When it comes to cooking meat, I love pan-searing above all else. Pan-searing lets the home cook put a professional, steakhouse char on any piece of meat. To me, it's far superior to grilling. The science behind it is called the Maillard Reaction. The meat acquires a divine crust and aroma that can only happen at temperatures above 310º.
Two weeks ago, my featured recipe was for Pan-Seared Spanish Steaks. That was a recipe for the ages....just plain awesome. This week's recipe is for pan-seared pork chops. It was created by Alex Guarnaschelli for her New York restaurant, Butter. If she looks familiar, you may have seen her on Iron Chef, Chopped or many of her other Food Network appearances.
The meat is cooked unadorned, save for some salt and pepper, but the bold and complex taste of the mustard sauce with the umami of the shiitake mushrooms knocks this dish right out of the park. For pan-searing, a cast iron pan is preferred but steel will also do the trick. Do not use a non-stick pan under any circumstances (if you do, the food police will show up in your kitchen and perform a highly thorough, body-cavity search on you in front of your loved ones). This recipe serves four.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons safflower or grape seed oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
4 bone-in pork chops (1 1/4-inch thick)
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound small shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
- Heat oven to 375º. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustards, 1/2 cup of oil and sherry vinegar until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon remaining oil. Meanwhile, season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside to absorb the seasoning for a few minutes.
- When the oil begins to smoke, add the shiitake mushrooms to the pan, brown side down, in a single layer. Cook, undisturbed, for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat until the caps are seared all over. Using kitchen tongs, turn mushrooms on their other side and cook for a few more minutes until golden. Transfer mushrooms to a plate and set aside. Wipe skillet of any excess oil with a wad of paper towels and set over medium heat once again.
- Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet. When it begins to smoke, add the pork chops in a single layer (you may have to do this in two batches). Cook the pork chops over high heat for 7 minutes. Then flip the pork chops over and place the skillet in the center of the oven. Cook for 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven, set chops on a serving platter and tent with foil, allowing them to rest for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, remove foil and top the chops with the sauce and mushrooms. Serve immediately.
Wine pairing: Pinot Noir
Recommended reading: http://terrygruggen.blogspot.com/2011/12/weapon-of-choice-cast-iron-pan.html