I’m not in the habit of true confessions, but I can and will confess to a major culinary crush on England’s Nigel Slater. Everything that man dreams up, I want to cook or bake. And his words? I can just read them again and again. I don’t know, I just feel in sync with the man. Over the years, he went (like me) from being someone very taken with comfort foods and simple but delectable flavour combinations, to someone who increasingly embraced healthy and local food choices, with an increasing emphasis on in-season produce, etc. Nigel’s journey to becoming a locavore has mirrored my own, or so I like to think.
Probably my favourite cookbook of Nigel Slater’s is The Kitchen Diaries (it’s his favourite too!), although I’m still thrilling to new discoveries in the gorgeous two-volume Tender that my dearest friend Jocy gave me two Christmases ago…it’s hard to choose.
Anyway, probably one of my most favourite recipes of all time by Nigel is pork chops in mustard sauce, which is a funny choice for me, as pork chops were kind of a later-in-life discovery and not a natural go-to food for me. Bacon? Sure! But pork chops, not so much. This recipe changed all that. It starts with a bit of butter and some olive oil gently melting in a pan (that’s our electric stove, I must confess, as the weather now is too warm for the Ironheart – the good news is that we’re now past the threat of frost and can move our seedlings outside).
Having already salted and peppered the chops…
…they are added to the pan for browning:
Once the chops have been nicely browned, I remove them to a warm plate while I do the next steps. Nigel recommends cooking the chops in the pan at this point, until no longer pink when cut into, but here I do deviate from my mentor’s guidance (I feel terrible, I know). I prefer to add the chops back in once I’ve got the sauce ready, and to continue cooking them in the pan as I reduce the sauce. Hate me if you will, but it just feels better to me.
So, it’s time to pour in a glass of white wine to deglaze the pan and stir up all those gorgeous crunchy bits from the browning phase for the chops, and then add the cream and the mustard.
Once the sauce is well blended, I put my chops back in the pan and keep the moderate heat going.
I like to keep it all on the heat, gently stirring as needed, until the chops are done and the sauce has become thicker and granular, like this:
Last night was truly comfort night. I served the finished chops and sauce with boiled new potatoes (a classic Nigel pairing for this dish and others). Nothing else. In the summer months I’d normally include a lovely generous bunch of lettuce leaves from the garden (with a very simple oily vinaigrette), also something I know Nigel would like, but without fresh lettuces to harvest and no willpower to conjure up an appropriate side-dish, I called it done. Nigel would have thoroughly approved, I feel sure, as I know he has his own comfort-driven suppers when vegetables just don’t get a look-in.
To cap it all off, my older son, the baker, was in baking mood and made a batch of his favourite chocolate oat brownies which – boy after my heart – he has modified to make his own. He and I rounded out our meal with a brownie each (and a glass of milk which the dear boy deemed essential and delivered to me where I sat on the sofa!), while my husband finished off the new potatoes.
Pork chops in mustard sauce (from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater)
Pork spare rib or chump chops – 2 large, about 1/2 inch thick
2 tbsp butter
1.25 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic
Glass of white wine
2/3 cup cream
1 generous tbsp grain mustard
1 generous tbsp smooth Dijon mustard
8 cornichons or half as many larger gherkins (I did not include these last night)
Rub the chops all over with salt and pepper. Put the butter and oil in a shallow pan set over a moderate to high heat and, when they start to froth a little, add the flattened garlic and the seasoned chops. Leave to brown, then turn and brown the other side. Lower the heat and continue cooking, turning once, until the chops are no longer pink when cut into.
Lift out the chops, transfer to a warm serving dish and keep warm. Pour off most of the oil from the pan, leaving the sediment behind, then turn up the heat and pour in the wine. Let it boil for a minute or so, scraping at the sticky sediment in the pan and letting it dissolve. Pour in the cream, swirl the pan about a bit, then leave it to bubble up a little before adding the mustard and the chopped cornichons (or gherkins).
Taste for seasoning; you may need a little salt and possibly black pepper. The sauce should be piquant and creamy. If you want, you can finish the sauce with a few drops of liqour from the cornichon jar to sharpen it up. Pour the sauce over the chops and serve.
Enough for 2 with mashed or unbuttered new potatoes.