My search for a novel recipe for pork chops led me to a well-worn cookbook on my shelves: 1,000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone. Although its title might sound a tad gimmicky, the 657-page tome comprises authentic Italian recipes by one of the most respected, and prolific, authorities on Italian cuisine.
The recipe I chose, “Pork Chops with Porcini and Red Wine,” calls for a modicum of ingredients and a minimum of work, but delivers a mound of flavors that elevate today’s typically tasteless pork to a new level. Re-hydrated porcini mushrooms and red wine add intense, deep, woodsy notes, while a touch of cream, as Scicolone says, “gives the sauce a smooth texture and rich flavor.”
Since I was cooking for two, I halved the amount of pork chops, but used the quantities listed for all of the other ingredients. As my better half says: “There’s never too much sauce.”
Pork Chops with Porcini and Red Wine (adapted from 1,000 Italian Recipes” by Michele Scicolone.)
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 ½ cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 center-cut pork loin chops, about 1 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry red wine
¼ cup heavy cream
1. Place the mushrooms in a bowl with the water. Let stand 30 minutes. Lift the mushrooms out of the liquid and rinse them well under running water, paying special attention to the base of the stems where soil collects. Drain, then chop fine. Pour the soaking liquid through a paper coffee filter-lined strainer into a bowl. (The mushrooms I used had a minimum of grit, so I skipped the rinsing. I also opted for a rough cut for the mushrooms; but next time may follow the recipe’s call for a fine chop.)
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Pat the chops dry. Place the chops in the pan in a single layer. Cook until they are nicely browned, about 2 minutes. (My chops took a while longer to brown; don’t rush this and the following step.)
3. Turn the chops over with tongs and brown on the other side, about 1 to 2 minutes more. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer the chops to a plate (and tent loosely with aluminum foil).
4. Add the wine to the skillet and simmer 1 minute.
5. Add the porcini and their soaking liquid. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced.
6. Stir in the cream and cook 5 minutes more.
7. Return the chops (along with any residual juices) to the pan. (I suggest tossing the chops in the sauce to coat.) Cook 5 minutes more, or until the chops are just cooked through and the sauce is thickened. Serve immediately (on warmed plates.)
Wine Pairing: Dolcetto d’Alba