Searing a steak or a chop in a skillet and then finishing it in the oven is one of those professional chef techniques that deserve to be more widely embraced. Home cooks avoid it because the two-step process seems fussy. Why not just cook the meat either in the oven or on the stove? But combining the two is the reason the pork chop you ate at a restaurant last week tasted so much better than the one you make at home.
Searing over high heat for a short time produces a good, rich browning. The oven slows the cooking, allowing the interior of the meat to finish evenly. You end up with a deeply browned crust revealing soft, juicy flesh.
Once you master the basic technique, you can change your flavorings and garnishes. In this simple recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli, the chef at Butter in New York, the meat is cooked practically naked, then garnished with a mustard vinaigrette and pan-roasted Shiitake mushrooms. Serve with buttered noodles, and you have a meal quick enough for a weekday, and better tasting than most.
Pork Chops with Shiitake Mushrooms
Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli, Butter, New York.
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 (11/4-inch thick)
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound small shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
HEAT oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the Dijon and whole-grain mustards, 1/2 cup oil and the sherry vinegar until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
HEAT a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Meanwhile, season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside to absorb the seasoning for a few minutes.
WHEN oil begins to smoke, add shiitake mushrooms to pan, brown side down, in a single layer. Cook undisturbed for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat until caps are seared all over. Using kitchen tongs, turn mushrooms over and cook for a few more minutes, until golden. Transfer mushrooms to a plate and set aside. Wipe skillet of excess oil with a wad of paper towels and set skillet over medium heat once again.
ADD remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet. When oil begins to smoke, turn heat to high and add pork chops in a single layer. (You may have to do this in two batches.) Cook pork chops until the first side is browned, 6 to 8 minutes, depending on thickness. Flip over pork chops and place skillet in the center of the oven. Cook for an additional 6 to 8 minutes or until done to taste. Remove skillet from oven and allow pork chops to rest, 5 to 10 minutes.
ARRANGE pork chops on a serving platter. Top with mustard vinaigrette and mushrooms. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings.