You could probably devote a small cookbook just to Italian veal chop recipes, but with the price of veal being what it is, I usually do what many Italians do and turn to pork. The taste of pork is different, of course, but most veal recipes translate quite well into oinkier versions. One of my favorites is pork chops with mushrooms. Well, as any regular reader of this blog will know, I am practically addicted to mushroom cream sauce. I love it on ox tongue, with egg pasta, gnocchi or canederli and, indeed, it goes particularly well with pork chops. In any event, here’s my version of the dish:
Serves 4 people
- 4 thin-cut rib pork chops (bone in)
- 250g (1/2 lb.) of fresh mushrooms (oyster mushrooms are particularly nice), roughly chopped
- 1-2 shallots, finely chopped
- 250ml (1 cup) cream, or as much as you need to make ample sauce
- Olive oil
- A handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
Dry your chops well with paper towles, dust them with flour and brown them in olive oil over a moderate flame until nice and golden brown on both sides. Remove them from the skillet and set aside til later.
Add the mushrooms to the skillet and sauté them in the remaining oil. Season the mushrooms with a bit of salt and pepper as soon as you’ve added them to encourage the mushrooms to exude their liquid. Depending of the type of mushroom you are using, they may exude quite a bit of liquid. Let all of that liquid evaporate, then continue sautéing until the mushrooms start to brown nicely.
Add a dab of butter and the chopped shallot to the mushrooms. Allow the shallot to sauté lightly, literally for just 30 seconds or so.
Now for my little ‘trick': add a ladleful of homemade broth to the mushrooms, and let that evaporate completely as well. This gives an extra layer of savory flavor to the dish, and is especially nice if you’re using the kind of mild cultivated mushrooms you are likely to find in most supermarkets. If, on the other hand, you are using wild chanterelles or cèpes (porcini) you can skip this step if you like to maintain that pure mushroom flavor. Now add your cream and let it reduce down over fairly high heat until you see that the fat has separated out.
At this point, you can leave the dish if you want until you are ready. A few minutes before you want to serve the dish, turn back on the heat to a moderate flame and add the chops back into the skillet on top of the cream sauce,along with any juices that may have accumulated—those juices have a lot of flavor, so don’t throw them out. You will want to loosen the sauce with a bit of milk or water; then turn the chops in the sauce until they are well coated.
Continue cooking for a few minutes, just long enough to warm the chops through and thicken the sauce yet again, this time to a consistency just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, adding a bit of finely chopped parsley as they cook.
Serve your pork chops with mushrooms immediately, topped with some more finely chopped parsley.
This recipe is a bit modified from the traditional one that calls for braising the chops in the sauce. Most modern pork, as we all know, is raised lean, and rib/loin chops are simply too lean for braising. So I just brown them nicely and put them back in the pan just long enough to warm through and absorb a bit of the flavor of the sauce. In this way, the pork is nice and flavorful but does not dry out, as they would if you tried to braise them.
For this dish, you need thin-cut chops that will cook in the short period of time called for. And, in any event, thin cut chops are more typically Italian, as they allow for a nice balance of flavors between the meat and its condiment.
As for the mushrooms, just about any variety will do, even those cultivate button mushrooms that can be a bit boring. Of course, wild mushrooms will give the dish all the more character. This time, I used a mixture of oyster mushrooms and the ones that Italians call chiodini, meaning ‘little nails’ or pioppini. I think the name in English is black polar mushrooms. Their scientific name is Lyophyllum shimeji, and I believe that they are Japanese in origin. You can also used dried mushroom, which will give the dish a more intense mushroom flavor or, using an old trick I learned from Marcella Hazan, mix some dried porcini and their liquid with cultivate mushrooms to mimic the flavor of the real deal.
The original recipe that inspired these pork chops with mushrooms was a veal chop recipe that I found long ago in Giuliano Bugialli’s Foods of Italy. The original, if I remember correctly, called for browining the veal chops in butter rather than oil and using, of course, fresh porcini mushrooms. The dish comes from Emilia-Romagna, which may be obvious from the generous use of butter and cream. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced that book somewhere, but this recipe—for reasons you may well imagine—stuck in mind…