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I love the idea of pork chops.  A healthy alternative to steak that cooks quickly and is a sponge for various seasonings and sauces.  Successfully cooking pork chops is another matter though, as lean pork chops can easily be overcooked and become dry, tough and simply unpleasant.  Since I like a good challenge, I wanted to make insanely delicious and juicy pork chops, with minimal effort.  I am pleased to say it worked out well.

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy over Grilled Polenta

I made the polenta first and highly recommend this recipe for polenta.  I don’t think it matters much if you use grits or polenta since they are both forms of dried corn, but for some reason I am partial to those made from yellow corn.  I made a thick polenta since I wanted to let it set and grill the cooled pieces.  For some added flavor, and because I love them, I added a generous portion of chopped scallions.  It really added a nice layer of flavor that normally comes from cheese (I used some butter but no cheese).

Cooked polenta after chilling for several hours

Once cooked, spread into a lightly greased pan to set.  I chose a smaller pan so that the slices would be thick and therefore more suitable for grilling.  You can do this step the night before or even the morning of your pork chop feast.  Regardless, they need to set in the fridge for at least three hours.  Other seasoning options that I may try in the future include chopped fresh herbs (basil and oregano), fresh corn kernels or cooked bacon bits.  Parmesan cheese is a nice seasoning element too.

Once set, I sliced into triangles and grilled on medium heat for about 15 minutes, turning once.   These are a great replacement to rice and mashed potatoes, and were firm enough to soak up the gravy similar to how you would with bread.

Next up were the pork chops.  I seasoned the bone-in, thick cut chops with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika and then seared them in a hot pan with some olive oil.  I removed them from heat well before they were even close to being done.

Mushrooms & Onions

The foundation of the gravy was sauteed mushrooms and onions with some dried thyme.  Cook until softened and then add a tablespoon of flour.  You need some fat in the pan to mix with the flour so you may need to add olive oil or butter if you did not have enough left over from searing the pork chops.  Let the flour cook for a minute before adding 1/4 cup of dry white wine (I would avoid a buttery chardonnay for this and stick to something light and unoaked).

Once the wine is reduced, add 1/2 cup skim or 1% milk (feel free to use whole milk for a richer sauce).  Let the gravy thicken and continually add more milk until you get the thickness that you like.  Taste and season with salt as needed.  Add the pork chops back to the pan and cook until the internal temp is 150.  Unlike steak, it can feel strange to eat rare pork chops even though the health risks from yesteryear are long gone.  Even though I am aware of that, I still like my pork cooked through, but just barely so they don’t dry out.  The challenge I had is that

pork chops added back to pan with gravy

bought really thick chops and I had run out of time.  My husband and son wanted dinner and I knew it would take a while to finish cooking those big chops.  So I removed them and sliced into thick slices and added those back to the pan.  They were done cooking in only a few minutes.

The scattered, smothered and covered is a reference to the wonderful hashbrowns of Waffle House, however, this dish was certainly smothered and covered by the wonderful gravy.  I guess you could be a little messy when plating to get the scattered part.

Sliced pork chops to speed up cooking time

This dish would pair nicely with a light bodied red (Pinot Noir, Gamay, Tempranillo), however, it was really hot on the day I made this so I wanted a glass of refreshing white wine.  I selected a wine from the Piedmont region of Italy and it was a great match.  The bright acidity and minerality of the wine complemented the creamy gravy and as well as the polenta.  I was really happy with the meal and the pairing.  YUM!

The wine was made using the Arneis grape which is native to the northwest region of Italy.  The wine was very dry with a floral and fruity nose.  There was an essence of apricots and ripe pears.  This wine would also be lovely on the porch on a hot and sunny afternoon.

Recipes:

Grilled polenta:

1 cup polenta

2 cups water

1 cup 1% milk

1 T butter

1/2 cup chopped scallions (green and white)

Salt to taste, somewhere around 1/2 teaspoon

Pork:

2 large pork chops or 4 small

seasoning for pork: salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika

6-8 large button mushrooms, sliced

1/2 onion, sliced thin

1/2 t dry thyme

1/4 white wine

1/2 – 1 cup milk

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