Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pork Chops with Dijon and Thyme

We don't eat pork often, but when we do, we like to fry up some pork chops in a skillet -- or on the grill, if it's nice enough out -- and serve them with some vegetables on the side. It's a simple meal that's a great alternative to our usual protein staples: chicken and red meat. D isn't a big pork eater -- I don't think he had it when he was growing up at all -- but we used to eat it occasionally. Probably because it was on sale.
That's actually the precise reason we got some pork chops last weekend at the grocery store: it was cheap and it looked fantastic. The chicken was looking a bit grey around the edges, the meat was unspeakably gross, and all we wanted was something to eat that didn't require thawing out for Monday night. So we went for the pork chops and were, as usual, pleasantly surprised. They were the perfect texture, with just enough fat around the edges to lend the whole chop a slightly buttery taste, and they were the perfect thickness: about a half an inch or so, which makes for an evenly-cooked yet juicy pork chop after it's done.
We served this with green beans on the side (recipe forthcoming) and, since there were three chops per package, ate one and a half each to round out the fact that we didn't serve them with rice or bread. That was kind of foolish: a starch would have perfectly rounded out this meal, making it whole. At least we did the beans, though: there's nothing I dislike more than a piece of meat sitting lonely on a plate.
We adapted, pretty radically, our recipe for Baked Dijon Chicken for these pork chops. Omitting the breadcrumbs, we opted to slather each side of the chops with a layer of mustard and fresh thyme. Instead of baking the pork chops, like we would with the chicken, we opted to sear them in a pan. We did this for two reasons: one, I've never baked pork, and I just didn't feel like researching it while starving; two, we were starving and didn't want to wait for the oven to preheat. With the green beans boiling away on one side of the stove, cooking the chops was easy. Everything was done at the same time this way, too, which is one of the best things that can happen in the kitchen. Hot food! All in one moment!

Pork Chops with Dijon and Thyme
We began by chopping some thyme -- about three tablespoons in all -- in our new Cuisinart Mini-Mate Chopper. D's father had this little gadget sitting in his basement, unused and still in the original box. We snatched it up like it was candy: I've been honking about my desire for a proper food processor for some time now, and this is the next-best miniature version. At least now I don't have to chop herbs by hand, which is a pain and stains the cutting board every time I do it. Still want a food processor... but my desire is waning and is being replaced with one for a Wusthof chef's knife.
Anyhow: mix the 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme with about 2 tablespoons creamy Dijon mustard. Coat this mustard mixture on one side of each pork chop, using only half (the rest will be brushed on the other sides when the chops are already in the hot pan.) Top with some fresh ground black pepper and place, mustard side down, in a hot greased pan. To grease the pan, drizzle in about 2 teaspoons of olive oil as the pan heats up so that the oil is hot as well when you begin to cook the pork.
When the chops are in the pan, brush the remaining mustard mixture on the tops of each one. Doing it at this stage makes it easier and less of a mess, and you waste less sauce this way also.
Cook for about five minutes on each side, until the juices run clear from each piece. If possible, use a meat thermometer to ensure that the pork is cooked, especially since it comes in such variable widths. The center of the chop should reach 160º before it can be eaten. Make sure that you flip the chops about halfway through, though. A lot of the mustard will stick to the pan, but that's the nature of these kinds of things. It still imparts a lot of flavor to the pork, especially with the fresh thyme, and searing it in the pan gives the edges a nice crunchy texture that almost tastes like butter.
Tomorrow, I'll give you my recipe for green beans. They're so simple, so fresh tasting, and so easy to find that they're a staple on our dining table: we eat them about once a week or so. If you want a fresh, easy vegetable? Green beans are your best friend.


Sarah said...

haha, i like how you said mustard side down, when you put the mustard on both sides. otherwise, i would have tried to cook it on its side and it would have probably taken REALLY long in addition to being physically impossible!

jokes aside, yum!

you are my foodblog goddess! did you get my mom's message? i TOTALLY understand if you don't want to meet with her cause she is crazy but if you are free anyway for a coffee it would be amusing! wednesday wednesday, humpity hump day!

K8 said...

Hahahhahah -- whoops! I kind of knew that part would be confusing. I'll edit it to make that part more clear.
I did get your ma's email -- I emailed her back and gave her my number. She's staying pretty far from where I'm at, but if she gives me a call and she can come into town I'd love to have some coffee with her!
Or should I just call her? Would that be easier?

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