I never met a pork chop I didn’t like. Ok, if you’ve spent any time at my Acadiana Table you know I love pork chops, and the simpler the better. This weekend Roxanne decided to make my favorite pork chops and mashed potatoes for dinner, and I decided to join in and help her develop a new recipe that is simple, yet elevates the tastes in directions that are both soul satisfying and elegant.
With several of farmer Charles Thompson’s pork chops — from heritage breed hogs — thawing out in a briny bath of salt, apple cider and water, I decided to turn my attention to the crowning glory of this dish – mashed potatoes and gravy. I have a standard technique for perfect mashed potatoes that I will never deviate from. I am a staunch believer in boiling my Idaho russets in salted water until just tender, not waterlogged. Ricing potatoes in a handheld ricer is the best way to get consistency and to achieve a soft, smooth texture that creates the perfect pillowy platform for the ultimate quest – gravy.
For most, gravy is a byproduct, but to me it is the crowning glory of most any dish. Without a good gravy, a mound of mashed potatoes is unfinished. With it, they are magical. The gravy I have in mind is based on a milk gravy my mom made every time she fried chicken or pork chops. A light blond roux with lots of whole milk spiced with black pepper was the age-old method, but I plan to create new tastes. Blending the thickened milk gravy with a touch of Dijon mustard, and cooking it down with mustard greens infuses it with a contemporary twist of flavors. Instead of black pepper I use white, and the rich, flavorful potlikker from the greens provides an added flavor boost.
With a package of my friend Wanda Barras’ fresh artisan goat cheese, I am intensifying the mashed potatoes into a rich reservoir worthy of holding my deluge of mustard gravy – this has got to be good. Griddled pork chops in a black iron skillet develops a browned, crusty exterior that gives just the right crunch with every bite around the bone. Like it has for me, this recipe is sure to become one of your favorites.
Pan-Griddled Pork Chops with Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes and Mustard Green Gravy
Prep time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves: 2 or 4
Tips: You can easily scale this recipe up if you have more guests or bigger eaters. This mustard green gravy could just as easily work with chicken.
For the pork chops:
4 cups water
4 cups apple cider
1 cup salt
4 bone-in, thin-cut pork chops
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
Brine the pork chops by mixing the water, cider and salt in a large covered container. Add the pork chops and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
In a black iron skillet on medium heat, add the oil. Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat dry removing all the salt. Sprinkle the pork chops with Cajun seasoning. Once the oil is hot, add them to the pan and cook until browned on both sides and fully done. Move to a paper towel-lined platter to drain. Keep warm until serving.
For the gravy:
1/2 cup white flour
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup chopped mustard greens
1 cup reserved stock (potlikker) from the mustard greens
In the same black iron skillet on medium heat, add the flour to the remaining pan drippings. With a flat edged wooden spoon or spatula, scrape the bottom of the pan and stir the flour until it begins to cook and becomes a roux. Once it takes on a beige color, add a little milk to the roux. Stir until the mixture thickens and then add a little more milk. Once you have a thickened gravy, add the mustard and the chopped mustard greens. Continue stirring to incorporate and let the greens release their juices. As the gravy thickens again, add some of the potlikker to loosen it to a gravy consistency that will coat the back of a spoon. Taste and season with salt and white pepper. Move the pan off the heat and reserve until serving.
For the mustard greens:
4 strips smoked bacon
1/2 cup yellow onions, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 bunch mustard greens, washed with stems removed and chopped
1 smoked ham hock
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot with a heavy lid on medium heat, add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon to a platter and break into pieces for later use. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic to the bacon drippings and cook until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped mustard greens and add water to cover the greens mixture. Add the ham hock and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil and the reduce to a simmer and cover tightly. Let the greens cook for 45 minutes.
For the mashed potatoes:
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces goat cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot, add the potatoes. Fill with water to cover the potatoes and lightly season the water with salt. On high heat, bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the water from the potatoes and using a potato ricer, process the potatoes until all lumps are gone. Return the shredded potatoes to the warm pot and add butter, heavy cream and goat cheese along with a grind of black pepper. Using a spoon, stir lightly until mixed and the cheese is melted. Cover the pot and keep warm.
For serving, turn the heat on the pan of gravy and bring back to a simmer. If the gravy has thickened too much, thin it out again by adding more potlikker.
Spoon a mound of mashed potatoes in the center of a plate and add a heaping spoonful of the mustard gravy. Top with a griddled pork chop. Serve with a bowl of mustard greens on the side along with hot cornbread and a pitcher of sweet tea.
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