A couple of weeks ago, I issued one of those last-minute dinner invitations to a friend. Normally I have something I can fix on short notice, but I knew my fridge was bare. I stopped by the supermarket and found great looking pork chops on special. I hadn’t done anything with pork chops for a while, so I bought a couple.
Then, at home, I had to decide what to do with them. I pulled out spices I always like with pork, cumin, coriander and cardamom, mixed them with olive oil and rubbed the chops with it.
And then I needed some sort of sauce.
I love beurre blanc, a French sauce that starts with white wine, white wine vinegar, shallots and sometimes herbs, simmered a bit to reduce it and strained. Then, off the flame, chilled butter is whisked in bit by bit to make a creamy sauce that is quite fragile: not enough heat and the butter doesn’t melt, too much and the sauce breaks down. This is a problem that one of my chef friends solves nicely, but in quite an un-traditional manner, with a splash of heavy cream whisked in at the end.
I also love beurre rouge, made the same way with red wine. Both are traditionally served with seafood. Both can be tailored to your taste with the addition of herbs, curry powder, Dijon mustard or spices.
I had a little cream sherry left in a bottle a friend had brought a few weeks before to go with our dessert. There wasn’t enough to serve, but certainly enough to cook with. So: there I am standing at my refrigerator door, looking at that bit of sherry and thinking, "Why can’t I do it with sherry?" And I did. Sort of.
I used the aromatics from the rub, crushed, and simmered them with sherry vinegar and the cream sherry and a shallot. I tasted and adjusted some of the seasonings, and let it set while we grilled the chops. While the chops rested, I finished the sauce. Boy! Was it good!
I had tossed asparagus with a little olive oil and sea salt and grilled them with the chops. About five minutes on the grill gives you a slightly crisp texture and pleasantly smoky flavor. I also cooked rice, and had a couple of yellow tomatoes that I sliced along side. An altogether satisfying dinner!
Middle Eastern Pork with Sherry "Beurre Brun"
2 center cut pork chops, about 1" thick
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp each ground cumin, coriander and cardamom
1 tsp each whole coriander seeds, cumin seeds and black peppercorns
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
½ cup cream sherry
1 large shallot, minced
½ cup chicken stock
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 oz (one stick) butter, very cold, cut into 12 pieces
1 tbsp heavy cream
Mix the ground spices with the olive oil. Rub the mixture all over the pork and let set at room temperature for up to an hour, or cover and refrigerate overnight.
For the sauce, crush the whole spices with a mortar and pestle, or with a rolling pin, or with the side of a heavy knife. In a small pan, add them to the vinegar, sherry and shallot. Simmer until reduced by about half. Remove from the heat, strain and let set until pork is done.
Either grill the pork on a charcoal or gas grill, or under the broiler, about 15 minutes on the first side, and 5 to 10 minutes on the second side, until done to your liking. I prefer my pork a tiny bit pink; it’s a lot juicier that way. Remove to a plate and tent with foil while you finish the sauce.
Reheat the strained sauce until just simmering. Remove from the heat and wait about two minutes. Then begin whisking in the butter piece by piece. When the last piece is in, whisk in the cream. Remove the chops to dinner plates and drizzle with the sauce. Serve immediately. Serves two but doubles or triples easily.