Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cooking School: Melissa Clark and Alex Guarnaschelli's Pork Chops with Shiitake Mushrooms

Melissa Clark
Melissa Clark, one of our favorite New York Times Food columnists, has just started a new Wednesday feature. Called “The Restaurant Takeaway” it is ‘devoted to restaurant dishes you can make in your own kitchen, tested and tweaked for home cooks’.  If the first chapter is any indication, we’re in for a very good time.  This past week, Melissa teamed up with Alex Guarnaschelli, whom any foodie worth his salt knows from her stints on “Chopped” and, prior to that, “Alex’s Day Off”.  This recipe trades on her experience at Butter, her twelve year old restaurant at 415 Lafayette St. (between 4th St. and Astor Place (Tel: 212 253 2828) that has now been
Alex Guarnaschelli 
spun off into a second location in midtown at 70 West 45
th St which uses the same telephone number (!).  The downtown Butter is a beautiful room and may be one of the most under-rated restaurants in New York.  Chef Guarnaschelli is masterful with meat and this recipe may change the way you cook it.

         Melissa Clark points out that the key difference between how home cooks tackle a steak or chop is profoundly different from how a Pro like Alex does.  Most of us just choose to either pan sauté our creations or roast them in the oven.  The reason a restaurant chop is so far superior is because the professionals make this a two step process: First the chop is seared over very high heat to develop a rich brown “crust”.  Then it’s put into the oven to complete the cooking process. The result is a deeply brown exterior with tender juicy flesh underneath, so completely unlike the dried-out stove top version.   The technique is about as simple as it gets: The preparation of the chop involves salt and pepper and nothing else.  This recipe pairs the almost naked chop with a mustard sauce that’s easy to whip up and wonderfully creamy.  Pan-
Jane Maguire and John Quigley of
Long Island Mushroon Inc.
roasted Shiitake Mushrooms complete the dish.  I feel very fortunate to have teamed up with Long Island Mushrooms Inc. who provide me with all the Shiitakes, Miatakes, and Oyster Mushrooms I can use.  LIM Inc can be found at Farmer’s Markets all over the East End in spring, summer and fall and this winter, they’re a big draw at the brand new Farmer’s Market Saturdays at 117 East Main St. in Riverhead LI.  Soon you’ll be able to order their sensational produce on line at Take a look at the site and see what they’re all about.   In the meantime, put your apron on and make this dish in about 40 minutes. Melissa serves it with buttered noodles.  I eschewed the carbs and went for sautéed spinach instead.  It was terrific and I don’t think I’ll cook a pork chop another way from now on.  Here is the recipe:

Melissa Clark’s Recipe for Pork Chops with Shiitake Mushrooms adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter Restaurants, New York
Serves 4. Takes 40 minutes total to make.
       1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
       2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
       1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons safflower or grapeseed oil
       1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
        4 bone-in pork chops (1 1/4-inch thick)
        Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
        1/2 pound shiitakes, stemmed
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustards, 1/2 cup of oil and sherry vinegar until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon remaining oil. Meanwhile, season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside to absorb the seasoning for a few minutes.
When the oil begins to smoke, add the shiitake mushrooms to the pan, brown side down, in a single layer. Cook, undisturbed, for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat until the caps are seared all over. 

Using kitchen tongs, turn mushrooms on their other side and cook for a few more minutes until golden. Transfer mushrooms to a plate and set aside. 

Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet. When it begins to smoke, add the pork chops in a single layer (you may have to do this in two batches). Cook the pork chops over high heat until the first side is browned, 6 to 8 minutes, depending on thickness. Flip over the pork chops and place the skillet in the center of the oven. Cook for an additional 6 to 8 minutes or until done to taste. Remove the skillet from the oven and allow the pork chops to rest, 5 to 10 minutes.

Arrange the pork chops plates. Top with mustard vinaigrette and mushrooms. Serve immediately.