Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mushroom Smothered Pork Chops

Remind me not to shop at Costco.  I needed a handful of mushrooms last week, and since I was there anyway for some salmon, I got lazy and picked up a mega-sized container of 'shrooms.  The thing was massive.  How could any average family really plow through all of those mushrooms unless they also offered some hallucinogenic value?  Because it kills me to simply buy groceries only to eventually shovel them into the compost heap, I was bound and determined to use those mushrooms.  As I watched them slowly turn from white to brown, and observed the stem start to separate from the button top, a feeling akin to panic erupted.  There's nothing worse than a refrigerator full of mushrooms except perhaps a refrigerator full of rotten mushrooms.  I mean the purpose of a refrigerator is to store food--not garbage, and the only thing to stop that process was a cook.  But what in the hell do you do with a pound and half of mushrooms that aren't quite as fresh as they should be?  Here's a thought:  mushroom smothered pork and mushroom risotto.   The mushrooms are practically stewed, so it won't matter that they aren't quite pretty enough to slice and toss on a salad.  And not to brag, but I also cleared out 3 onions, some leftover chicken broth, and 1/2 bottle of a truly sucky pinot grigio, and the meal was phenomenal.  Sometimes I amaze myself.

Served with roasted tomatoes and patty pan squash,
a salad, and a lovely Viognier 
 Smothered Pork chops with Mushroom Risotto

1.     Dredge 4 thick boneless pork chops in flour seasoned generously with rosemary, salt and pepper.  Pan sear in hot, but not smoking, olive oil until a light golden brown--about 4 minutes each side.  Set aside.

2.     Add about 2 Tbs olive oil to the pan, and add 3 medium-sized chopped onions and one and one-half pounds of sliced mushrooms, scraping up any bits from the pan-seared pork.

3.     Saute for about 3-5 minutes until just tender.  Add 1/2 bottle of pinot grigio.  Don't even think about sipping it.  It's been sitting in the refrigerator for 3 weeks because it was too gross to drink.  Ignore what the Food Network advises about never cooking with a wine you wouldn't drink.  Bull.  For God's sake, you are going to boil the hell out of this wine.  What is that going to do to the structure and nuanced flavors of a really good wine?  If it's good enough to drink, drink it.  If it isn't--cook with it. 

4.     Continue to let the onions and mushrooms simmer in the wine until most of the wine has been either absorbed or boiled off.  Place 1/2 of this mixture on the pork chops.

5.     Add 1 cup of risotto to the mushroom mixture that remains in the saucepan.

6.     Continue to add hot chicken broth to the mixture, one cup at a time until the rice is plump and tender--about 2-3 cups of broth depending on how much wine the rice initially absorbed.  This process will take about 20 minutes, and requires you to consistently stir the risotto. 

7.    In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and place the previously set aside pork in the oven for about the same 20 minutes. 

A word here on cooking pork.  Cooking pork has been forever ruined by the fear of trichinosis.  Do not underestimate this fear.  Trichinosis is a horrible, debilitating, life threatening disease--that no one in the modern era has ever contracted.  Still, it is largely responsible for both the Jewish and Islamic faiths wholly writing off any meal associated in the least by pig.  The fear of trichinosis caused my mother to cook pork to such a degree that it really should have been more properly advertised as: "Pork--the other gray meat."   But despite what the Department of Homeland Security would have you believe, there's a big difference between fear and reality.   The fear is trichinosis; I get that, and that fear is huge.  The reality is that pork cooked until it is just slightly pink, with the juices running clear and white, tastes simply and utterly amazing, and it is completely safe.  Really.  For years, I've not just been eating pork, but have actually been enjoying it, and well, I'm not dead yet.

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