When I was in high school, my mom and I threw all kinds of dinner parties.
OK, she threw the parties and I helped with the cooking. Our go-to entree was veal scaloppini. At the time it seemed so fancy. Now I realize that it was all about the sauce. In its velvety blandness, veal really is little more than an excuse for sauce, a cake in search of frosting.
This recipe substitutes pork chops for veal. A generation ago, this switcheroo wouldn't have worked; the chops would have been too rich and fatty. But modern-day engineering has turned pork chops into that other white meat. They have very little fat and, consequently, very little flavor. Fat is a conductor of flavor, as well as a provider of moisture.
Accordingly, one of today's standard-issue supermarket pork chops is nearly as suitable as veal as a vehicle for sauce — and it's cheaper, too.
Fine, you say, but isn't it going to take me a ton of time and effort to make a good sauce? Not necessarily. A pan sauce is built from the concentrated bits of juice left in the bottom of a skillet after you've seared a protein. Transforming those flavorful little nuggets into a sauce requires nothing more intricate than dissolving them with the aid of a liquid, usually wine and stock, and adding some extra flavor, often in the form of sauteed shallots or onions.
The big flavor in this sauce comes from the grapes and the mustard. I never knew how “grapey” a grape could be until I first made sole Veronique — sole served in a cream sauce with peeled green grapes — in cooking school. You'll see for yourself. Though we've skipped the pesky peeling part.
Start to finish 25 minutes; serves 4
Four 1/2-inch-thick boneless pork chops (about 1 pound total), trimmed of any fat
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Wondra flour, for dredging the pork chops
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup seedless red or green grapes, halved
1/4 cup dry white wine
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. One at a time, dip the pork chops in the flour, coating them well on both sides but shaking off the excess.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the chops to the pan and cook until lightly browned on the first side, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, turn the chops and cook for 1 minute on the second side. Transfer them to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
Add the onion and grapes to the skillet, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the wine and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring, until the wine is reduced to 1 tablespoon. Add the stock and sugar and simmer until the broth is reduced by half.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, return the pork to the skillet, along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate and simmer very gently, turning the pork several times, for 1 minute. Transfer each pork chop to a serving plate. Add the mustard to the sauce, whisking, then season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce evenly over each portion and serve right away.
Nutrition information per serving: 280 calories; 100 calories from fat (36 percent of total calories); 11 grams fat (2 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 65 milligrams cholesterol; 17 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 8 grams sugar; 26 grams protein; 660 milligrams sodium.
Gear: Lots to love about this helmet