Boneless pork chops are so lean that overcooking them is all too easy.
I found a solution while watching a re-released DVD version of "Julia Child: The Way to Cook" (Knopf Video Books, 2009). Like most things Julia, her method worked perfectly. The trick is to brown the chops, then let them quick-braise on the stovetop. The chops rest while you make a sauce or garnish from the cooking liquid.
The sauce here is made from leeks that have been slow-cooked in advance. I add them to the braising liquid and let them cook together for a few minutes while the liquid reduces. A little butter enriches the sauce without adding too much fat.
Leeks are notoriously sandy, so soak them in cold water, refreshing the water as needed until the leeks are thoroughly cleaned. Don't skip this step, or you might end up with a gritty finished dish.
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds leeks, tough green tops and outer layer removed; white and light-green parts cut in half, rinsed and cut crosswise into thin slices (4 cups)
- 3/4 cup water
- 3 to 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Four 4-ounce boneless pork chops, each about 1-inch thick
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or champagne
- 1/2 cup low-sodium or homemade chicken broth
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 6 or 8 cubes (optional)
Place the leeks in a large bowl and fill the bowl with cold water. Soak the leeks for 10 minutes, then scoop them out of the water. If there is dirt in the bottom of the bowl, drain, rinse and soak the leeks again. Repeat the process until the water stays clean.
Combine the drained leeks, the 3/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon of the oil and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt in a large skillet or braising pan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cover partially and reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the liquid bubbles at the edges. Cook for 30 minutes, until the leeks are quite soft and tender. Most of the water should have cooked away. If not, remove the lid and increase the heat to medium-high until the liquid evaporates; the leeks should be moist but not wet. Transfer to a shallow dish.
Wipe the skillet or pan clean. Return it to the stove over medium-high heat and add just enough oil (2 to 3 teaspoons) to coat the bottom evenly.
Season the pork chops with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. When the pan is hot, add the chops and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on one side, until browned. Turn the chops over and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to brown the second side.
Add the wine or champagne and the broth; bring to a boil and cover, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the liquid bubbles at the edges. Cook for 4 minutes, then turn the chops over and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until their internal temperature registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Transfer the chops to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the leeks to the cooking liquid in the skillet or pan; increase the heat to medium-high. Cook uncovered so the liquid reduces by two-thirds. The leek mixture is quite lean. If desired, whisk in in the butter (to taste) to add richness and a smooth finish to the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Place the chops on individual plates. Top with the leeks and sauce; serve hot.
From Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
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