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~ Smothered with Love: Pork Chops w/Onion Gravy ~

IMG_3599Until 1986 I had never tasted real-deal Southern 'smothered' food.  I knew that smothering was a cooking technique similar to braising.  It basically/usually involves browning tough cuts of meat and/or root vegetables in fat (foods that require a lengthy cooking time to soften), adding some flavorful liquid and simmering over low heat until thickened and entire meal melts in your mouth. I knew this because by the time I was 30 years old, I'd been cooking long enough to have made smothered dishes with fancy names:  Swiss steak (which isn't Swiss and comes from a tenderizing method called "swissing"), ossobucco (Italian) and etouffee (French-Creole, with "etouffee" being the  French word for "smothered").  Smothered food = yummy food!

In the South they simply call this cooking method "smothered"!

This Yankee girl calls it "smothered with love"!!!

IMG_3587There are several diverse/different types of regional Southern cuisines, and, born and raised Southern experts have written about all of them.  For those of us not from the South, let's suffice it to say that when we think of Southern food, we think fried or smothered (in gravy). Also, for those of us not from the South who are eating in a Southern restaurant, we would be disappointed if there wasn't something fried and something smothered on the menu (something fried and smothered is better yet)!  

So, back in 1986, when we (about 20 of us from our Happy Valley tailgate group) wandered into a Tennessee diner (on our way to Tuscaloosa, AL to watch a Penn State football game) and I saw 'smothered' pork chops on the menu, I ordered them in an artery-clogging heartbeat:

IMG_3392Two tender chops wallowing in a super-savory, creamy buttermilk gravy full of browned onions.  They were served with spoonbread and collard greens.  It was an entire meal I had never tasted before -- it was a plate of Southern comfort and I instantly fell in love with it.  You can find my recipe for ~ Lovin' Spoonful: Buttermilk 'n Cheddar Spoonbread ~ by clicking on the Related Article link below!

IMG_3024The chops are thin (1/2") bone-in loin chops.  Bone in chops are a must for smothered pork chops because the bone keeps the meat moist and adds flavor to the sauce. They cook quickly too.  Initially, just 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown, then, just a few minutes in the sauce to reheat them. They emerge a "to the tooth" knife-and-fork tender similar to that of a spare rib.  To learn ~ The Art of Frying The Skinny Pork Chop ~ click on the Related Article link below!

The super-savory, creamy buttermilk-onion gravy gets made in the pork fat and drippings left in the skillet after browning the pork chops!

Shall we get started on this Southern smothered comfort food?

Part One:  Frying the pork chops.

IMG_2931 IMG_2907I bought a package of 10, thin-cut, bone-in pork chops today. In it was a combination of 6 rib chops and 4 center loin chops.

10,  1/2"-3/4"-thick bone-in pork chops, rib or center cut

IMG_3430For the flour-spice blend:

1  cup Wondra flour 

1  tablespoon poultry seasoning blend (thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, pepper and nutmeg)

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon onion powder

1/2  teaspoon smoked paprika

1  tablespoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)                                             

IMG_3439 IMG_3433~ Step 1. Stir the Wondra flour and all of the spices together in a small bowl. Once you make this blend and taste the finished dish, feel free to adjust the spices in the future to suit your palate.  This is also a great blend for chicken or veal too!

Note:  I like to use Wondra flour because it is granulated, which produces a crispiness on the pork chops that all-purpose flour will not.

IMG_3452 IMG_3450~ Step 2. Sprinkle the top of each chop with about a teaspoonful of the flour mixture.  Not a full dredge, just a sprinkle.  Allow chops to rest about 10-15 minutes.  This allows the flour to absorb the moisture from the chops, which helps them fry up with a crispy.

Note: NOT dredging in flour = NOT contaminating the flour.  Store  the leftover flour mixture in your pantry!

IMG_2957 IMG_2955~ Step 3.  Get out the biggest skillet you've got.  I'm using a 14" chef's pan with straight, deep sides.  Add enough of corn or peanut oil to the bottom to give it a thin, even coating.  I am using peanut oil.  Do not use olive oil, as its smoke point is wrong and the chops will burn.  Heat oil over medium until little waves appear.

IMG_2961~ Step 4.  Even armed with a 14" skillet, 10 chops will not fit into it at once.  No matter what size your skillet is, do not overcrowd the pan. These chops cook so quickly it is no big deal to cook them in 2 batches.

Note:  Place chops in the pan, floured side down.  You should immediately hear a sizzle.  When you put the first one in, if you get no sizzle, your oil is not hot enough. Increase the heat a bit.

IMG_2979~ Step 5.  Season the second sides with a sprinkling of the seasoned flour.  Adjust heat to saute and continue to cook until the chops are golden brown on the bottom, 4-5 minutes.  Flip chops over and saute on the second sides, until golden brown, 4-5 minutes per side.  Turn heat off, remove chops from the pan cover with foil and set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the skillet, add the remaining four chops and cook them as directed above.

IMG_3463 IMG_3458~ Step 6. Once all of the chops are removed from the pan, add:

1/2  cup white wine

Using a spatula, deglaze the pan by scraping all of the browned bits from the bottom.  This is going to be the basic flavoring for your gravy!

Part Two:  Making the Savory Buttermilk 'n Onion Gravy!

IMG_34832  very large yellow or sweet onions, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced, about 1 1/2  pounds

6  tablespoons flour-spice blend (leftover from above)

2  14 1/2-ounce cans chicken stock

1/2-1  cup buttermilk

1-2  tablespoons Louisianna Gold hot sauce, to taste

IMG_3490 IMG_3488~ Step 1. Reheat the pan drippings over medium-high heat.  Add the onions. Using a spatula, stirring frequently, saute until the onions are softened, but still crispy, about 4-5 minutes.

Note:  Error on the side of the onions being undercooked rather than overcooked, as they are going to continue simmering in the sauce.

IMG_3505 IMG_3495~ Step 2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the flour-spice blend over the top of the onions.

Continue to stir constantly until the a lump-free, thickened mass of onions forms, about 30-60 seconds.

Note:  If you are using Wondra flour, there will never be any lumps!

IMG_3518 IMG_3513                                             ~ Step 3. Add the first can of chicken stock, return mixture to a simmer and continue to cook for about 1 minute.

Add the second can of chicken stock and continue to simmer until nicely thickened to a gravy-like consistency, about 6-8 minutes.

IMG_3537~ Step 4.  Stir in the buttermilk, 1/2-1 cup, to your liking. Return to a simmer and cook for 1 more minute.

IMG_3550Stir in 1 tablespoon of the cayenne pepper sauce.  Simmer for about 1 minute. Taste and add additional pepper sauce, in small increments, until desired "heat" is reached!

IMG_3562 IMG_3565~ Step 5. Add the pork chops to the simmering gravy. Overlapping them in the pan is just fine.  Return to a simmer, partially cover and continue to cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Plate those chops, smother them with a generous ladle full of gravy and serve immediately:

IMG_3614And... don't forget the spoonbread!

IMG_3618Smothered with Love:  Pork Chops w/Onion Gravy:  Recipe yields 10 pork chops/4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  14" chef's pan w/straight deep sides, preferably nonstick; fork and/or spatula; aluminum foil;  cutting board; chef's knife

IMG_5822Cook's Note:  In the case of etouffee, the smothery sauce, made with a golden brown roux, covers shellfish: crawfish, shrimp or crab (not a combination of shellfish). You can find my recipe for ~ Shrimp Etouffee:  A Hallmark of Louisianna Cuisine ~ in Categories 2, 3, 14, 19 or 21!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie Preschutti/Copyright 2013)


Tricia -- I am assuming, by your comment, you are happy to have found this recipe, and, it is always my pleasure to share my recipes with my readers. Enjoy!

Receipt pork chop

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