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Pork chops with brown butter and mushrooms

pork chops with brown butter

Don’t those look fantastic?  They took less than 20 minutes to make.

It was one of those nights – I’d made plans to go out, but I changed my mind after a long day at the station.  I needed something to make for myself and Brian, and fast.  I had some mushrooms that were about to pass their prime, as well as some beautiful boneless pork chops (3 for $5!) in the fridge.

The pork chops of my childhood were dry and unappetizing, coated heavily with Mrs. Dash and cooked to an inch of their lives in my mother’s electric skillet.  They were an obligatory meal – something my mom made because my dad liked them, though he never cared for these particular bricks of overcooked meat.  In reality, “the other white meat” can be as juicy and fragrant as a well-cooked steak.

The trick to cooking good pork?  An oven-safe pan.  If you don’t already have one, get one.  They’re not very expensive, since you’re not paying for a fancy non-stick coating or comfortable grip handle. I bought mine for about $12 at Tuesday Morning, a discount home store, and it’s more than held up to almost daily use for more than two years.  It’s a little harder to clean up than my beloved Millennium skillet, but it’s a favorite for searing meat and finishing it in the oven.  That’s what I did with this pork.  I seasoned each chop lightly – coarsely ground black pepper and garlic sea salt – while waiting for the oil to heat up.  I browned about a teaspoon of minced garlic, then threw in the pork chops.  I browned them for about a minute on each side, then transferred them to a 350° oven, which I checked periodically over the next 10 minutes for doneness.  I took them out when a steak knife to the center revealed a perfect pale pink color.

As an aside – is anyone else obsessed with “Worst Cooks in America?” I certainly don’t think I’d qualify to be among their ranks, but I did find myself blushing the other night when Chef Beau criticized Marque for checking his salmon too frequently when it was on the grill.  I’m the world’s worst about this – I check, stir and poke whatever I’m fixing constantly.  (I do not forget to taste – not ever.)  But I was good tonight, letting the oil and garlic form a perfect golden crust around the edge of the pork chop.

If you don’t know about brown butter (or can’t quite get it “brown” instead of “burnt”), check out this great video from Jenny Slafkosky, a freelance food writer.  The trick is to hover.  Closely.  I started with 1/2 a stick of butter, cut into tablespoons.  Once it had nearly browned, I tossed in a handful of sliced mushrooms and seasoned with cracked pepper and a pinch of salt.  A minute later, with the mushrooms cooked, I plated the pork chops with some asparagus (seasoned with a little of the coarsely ground garlic sea salt and “steamed” in the microwave with a Zip ‘n Steam bag), then drizzled the pork chops with the mushrooms and brown butter.  I probably could have used less butter – more like 3 T for two people – because there was a lot of sauce left on the plates at the end of the meal.

Great meals (Brian set his fork down and said I could make this one again “any time”) don’t have to take a lot of time.  We were eating about 20 minutes after inspiration struck after rooting around in the fridge.  They also don’t have to hurt your wallet – the cost of the meal was about $4.50 for two people, excluding pantry staples like spices and oils.

ETA: Owing to the fact that I still had one more pork chop, I made a singleton variation of this meal later in the week. Instead of covering with a brown butter sauce, I smothered the pork chop with onions. Just add onions to the pan while the garlic is sizzling. When the chop is ready to go in the oven, move the onions to cover. I served with steamed broccoli and a baked potato, and I’ll probably aim for some middle ground between the two versions the next time I cook it.

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