Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Daniels

What's odd?  It's my first Mother's Day Eve.  Odd because I don't have kids.  But my sweet 11-year-old niece has decided it's appropriate to cook for me tomorrow, bless her darling little heart.  Have I ever been so honored?  I doubt it.

Since I'm off the hook for cooking tomorrow (except appetizers), I busted it out on dinner tonight.  After a month or so of lackluster new recipes, HOME RUN with Tennessee-Whiskey Pork Chops.  Oh. My. God.  Tender, flavorful, they have a gravy - what's not to like?  As a side I made a high-maintenance corn casserole that isn't as good as my Scalloped Corn but is a hell of a lot more work, which violates my core kitchen values.

But anyway.  Tennessee-Whiskey pork chops are a little more work - but not much - than throwing pork in a pan.  And it's totally worth the effort.  The recipe calls for bone-in pork chops, but I thawed out half a pork loin and sliced it.  Of course, this decision was based on my highly experienced decision-making process of "it's what I already had in the freezer." 

Also, I didn't use a gallon-size ziploc bag because I'm making a genuine effort to use less one-use plastic.  I did the marinade in a glass Pyrex with a reusable plastic lid, and it worked fine.  Just turn the pork every 20 minutes or so.

The recipe notes that while any whiskey will work, they REALLY like Jack Daniels in this.  I have no reason to argue.  Y'all, this is a publication that debates the merits of one brand of baking soda over another (????), so if they say JD is the best I have no reason to doubt them.  I bought a pint and a half or some such small bottle for less than $10 at the package store, and it was only a dollar or two more than a lesser libation would've been.

Also, I'm going to cut the brown sugar the next time I make it.  It was a little too sweet for me - but then again, most things are.  Your mileage may vary.

Enjoy.  I'm not giving you the recipe for the low return on investment corn casserole I made, but I do recommend scalloped corn on the side.  Regular corn on the cob would also be terrific, especially with a green salad.  Oooh, and mashed potatoes, or mashed sweet potatoes, would TOTALLY rock with this sauce.

Tennessee-Whiskey Pork Chops
Cook's Country

1/2 cup Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey or 1/2 cup bourbon
1/2 cup apple cider (juice will work, but cider is better)
2 TBSP light brown sugar
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I KNOW.  But it works)
4 tsp cider vinegar, divided
4 bone-in, center-cut pork chops, about 1 inch thick (I sliced some boneless pork loin instead)
2 tsp vegetable oil (divided)
Salt and pepper
1 TBSP unsalted butter

1.  Whisk whiskey, cider, brown sugar, mustard, cayenne, vanilla, and 2 teaspoons vinegar together in medium bowl.

Transfer 1/4 cup whiskey mixture to gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag, add pork chops, press air out of bag, and seal. Turn bag to coat chops with marinade and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.  Reserve remaining whiskey mixture separately.

2.  Remove chops from bag, pat dry with paper towels, and discard marinade.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season chops with salt and pepper and cook until well browned on both sides and a peek into thickest part of a chop using paring knife yields still-pink meat 1/4 inch from surface, 3 to 4 minutes per side.  Transfer chops to plate and cover tightly with foil.  [Really do cover tightly with foil.  The pork stays so much more moist and tender than if you let it steam into the air.]

3.  Add reserved whiskey mixture to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits.  Cook until reduced to thick glaze, 3 to 5 minutes (mine took more like 7).  Reduce heat to medium-low and, holding onto chops, tip plate to add any accumulated juices back to skillet. 

Add remaining 2 teaspoons vinegar, whisk in butter, and simmer glaze until thick and sticky, 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove pan from heat.

4.  Return chops to skillet and let rest in pan until sauce clings to chops, turning chops occasionally to coat both sides, and a peek into thickest part of a pork chop using paring knife shows completely cooked meat (145 degrees on instant-read thermometer, which I HIGHLY recommend you own for $10 to $15).  Transfer chops to platter and spoon sauce over.  Serve.

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