Chef’s Note: To brine or not to brine… that is the question. In years long past, pork had a very bad reputation… It was fatty, greasy, and in a climate of healthier recipes, people stopped eating pork, and switched to things like turkey, and chicken. So, the hog farmers began raising a leaner version of pork. That was a good thing; however, it had a tendency to come out a bit dry. I hate it when that happens.
Brining solution for pork chops.
The basic formula for a brine solution is 1 cup of table salt (without iodine) to a gallon of filtered water. The solution should be salty to the taste but not thick with salt. If you are using kosher salt, increase that to 1.5 cups (kosher salt weighs less by volume).
When it comes to the amount of brining time, it is more important not to brine too long than not long enough. While some cuts of pork can use days in a brine, even a relatively small amount of time can be helpful. Pork generally takes a long time to get the full effect. I wouldn't bother brining a cut of pork if you didn't have at least a few hours; however, with smaller cuts even 3 or 4 hours can do the trick. Do not; however go longer than the recommended times.
Pork Chops (about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick) - 8 to 12 hours (or up to 24 hours).
Do not go any longer than 24 hours. Brining is good, but it can be overdone.
In addition to the salt, you can add some sweetener: brown or white sugar, molasses, or even maple syrup. You can add up to 1/2-cup sweetener per gallon of brine. If you are adding a sweetener, reduce the amount of salt by 1/4 cup for table salt, and 1/2 cup for kosher salt.
Remember to keep the pork chops completely submerged in the brine solution, and in the refrigerator at all times during the brining process.
Chef’s Tip: Try to get rib chops. As with most meats, tenderness in pork chops often comes at the cost of flavor. I like using pork rib chops because they have more fat than a loin chop, but less connective tissue than a blade chop, helping them strike a great balance between the two ends of the spectrum.
Gather all your ingredients.
Add some salt and pepper, cayenne and the ground cumin to the all purpose flour, and mix to combine.
Add the cream to the whole milk and combine.
Chef’s Note: The addition of the cream (extra fat) will help the flour adhere to the pork.
Take two dishes or pie plates big enough to hold one of the pork chops. Add the milk/cream to one, and the flour to the other.
Dip a pork chop in the milk/cream, and thoroughly soak.
Then drop it into the flour. Make sure the chop is completely coated.
Lay the pork chop on a wire cooling rack, and repeat with the other three chops.
Allow the pork chops to rest for 30 minutes before proceeding.
Chef’s Note: The resting period serves two purposes: One, it allows the flour and milk mixture to come together, and stick to the chop… Two, it brings the cold chop closer to room temperature, and helps in the cooking process.
While the chops are resting, place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, and add the oil and butter.
Heat until the butter is melted and the foaming subsides.
Add the pork chops to the sauté pan, and cook on one side, until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes,
Chef’s Note: Don’t play with your food; let them sit there and cook. After about 5 to 7 minutes, use a pair of tongs to carefully lift one up and see if it’s brown enough. It should lift off the bottom of the pan without sticking. If it sticks, it’s probably not ready to turn.
Carefully turn the pork chops over, add the onions to the pan, and continue cooking, until the chops are cooked through and the onions are nice and brown, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Chef’s Note: An instant read thermometer should read an internal temperature of 145f (63c).
Chef’s Note: The food safety board used to claim you had to cook pork to 165f (74c), and this usually produced an overcooked dried out chop. Then they got wise and changed the time to 145f (63c), which is still about 5 degrees too much. I usually , cook them to an internal temp of 143f (62c), and allow the carry over cooking of the meat to raise the internal temp to 145f (63c).
Chef's Note: If the onions are not nice and brown, leave them in the pan, but take out and tent the pork chops. We want nice brown, and crispy onions.
Remove the onions from the pan, allow to drain on a paper towel, and reserve.
MAKING THE PEPPERY GRAVY
While the chops are happily cooking away, add the butter to a saucepan over medium heat.
When the butter has melted, add the flour, a slight pinch of cayenne pepper, and stir to combine.
Chef’s Note: Mixing a combination of fats with flour is called a roux. What we’re doing is making, a “blond” roux (no blond jokes, please). In other words, we’re not going to let it cook for very long.
As soon as the flour and fat are incorporated, add the warm milk, in a slow steam, while whisking to combine it with the roux.
Chef’s Tip: Have a bit of extra warm milk, and flour at the ready, so if the gravy is a bit too thin or thick, you can fix it on the spot.
Chef’s Note: As the gravy is simmering and thickening, slowly add a bit of salt and pepper, and then taste, and slowly add a bit more, until you reach the desired flavor. It should have a peppery kick to it.
Place the pork chops on a large serving platter, cover with the peppery gravy, and serve family style along with your favorite sides.
If the dinner is a bit more formal, plate up the pork chops on individual serving pieces, ladle over the gravy, and then add the sides. I’m partial to some mash potatoes, and some of that awesome gravy on top. Enjoy.