Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dinner's in the Oven: Pork Chops

My, a house smells good when there's pork in the oven, like in my house and in my oven tonight. The pork chops were first browned in the skillet, then the potatoes and carrots and onions were sauteed and finished with white wine and chicken broth before all were mixed together and tucked in the oven for a late afternoon cocooning.

I have made this one-dish dinner for several years, sometimes with pork, sometimes with boneless chicken breasts, with pork being my family's favorite. The first incarnation of this recipe was on a grocery store recipe card - you know the racks of mealtime suggestions when you enter the store. The one-dish simplicity of skillet pork chops was its top selling point, but, sadly, the toughness of the chops in the original recipe meant some tweaking was in order.

The switch from stove-top to oven braising did the trick, and while this may take a bit longer, it also adds some flexibility to the recipe that was not present before. You can buy bone-in or boneless chops, either will melt to tenderness while in the oven. I prepare the meal earlier in the day and leave it in the oven at 250 or 300, occasionally checking the pan and adding water or stock if it looks a bit dry. Cooking earlier works for me because I'm at home, and chaos truly descends on my house at 5 p.m. when my children begin to feel a bit peckish (as Pooh says).

So, after lunch, I brown the pork, chop the vegetables and slip the covered pan into the oven. I pick up the kids in the afternoon, they play outside, and when Daddy comes home, we set the table and pull this very easy dinner out of the oven. To quote many a food writer, all you really need with this dish is a loaf of crusty bread and a nice green salad. I'm from the double-the-starch, double-the pleasure school, so I would probably add buttered, cooked rice to soak up the lovely gravy. A green vegetable would not be out of place, perhaps steamed broccoli or frozen green peas sauteed in butter with a teensy bit of onion.

Oven Braised Pork Chops with Potatoes and Carrots

1 tablespoon. vegetable oil
4 pork chops, with or without bones, no more than 3/4 inch thick
1/4 cup of flour
salt and pepper
6 small red potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup or more low-salt chicken broth
Bay leaf, if desired
additional salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 350. In a pie plate, mix together flour and salt and pepper. Place a 10 inch skillet with lid on the heat and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to pan.

2. While oil is heating, dredge pork chops in seasoned flour. When oil starts to look swirly, place the chops in skillet. Brown chops on both sides, about three minutes each side, until golden brown. Set chops on plate and add vegetables to skillet.

3. Cook vegetables until caramelly brown, stirring occasionally. When vegetables are cooked, add white wine and reduce by half. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.

4. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning. Add bay leaf, if desired. Return chops to pan, cover pan and place in oven. Reduce heat to 300 and cook for at least one hour, checking occasionally. Add water or broth as needed, if pan gets too dry. If using the bay leaf, be sure to retrieve it from the sauce before serving.

Text and images copyright Lucy Mercer, 2008.

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