Looking For A Quick & Easy Mid-Week Meal
This recipe was adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks called The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly. If you want to learn all about cuts of meat and how to cook them, this is the book I would recommend.
It’s one of those cookbooks I enjoy reading just to learn meat-cooking techniques and there are plenty of great recipes to put those techniques to the test. What I particularly like about the recipes is how they consistently remind the home cook to watch internal temperatures. Don’t depend on time and external temps but be aware of the meat’s internal temperatures.
I picked up some nice looking center cut pork chops at our local farmers market from my friends at Stoltzfus Meats that may have been a little too thin for this recipe so I really had to watch how fast they cooked.
Normally I like to grill or pan fry center cut pork chops but if you are careful, braising them for a short time is a great alternative plus you end up with some delicious sauce for the mashed potatoes or noodles.
Their recipe used Pernod, a brand of liqueur called pastis that has a licorice flavor and goes well with the fennel. You could also go with anisette, another licorice flavored liquor. Go lightly with either. A little adds a lot of flavor.
Braised Pork Chops with Fennel Sauce Recipe
Four 1¼ to 1½ inch thick pork chops (I used center cut but you could also substitute pork blade chops that comes from the loin or the pork blade steaks that comes from the shoulder.)
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
½ cup finely chopped fennel bulb
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons Pernod or anisette
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup heavy cream (optional but I recommend)
How To Prepare At Home
Start by preheating your sauté (fry) pan over medium high heat. If your pan isn't big enough to sear all four chops, cook them in two batches. You never want to overcrowd the pan or the meat will steam.
Add the oil and let it get hot. Add the chops and sear them for a couple of minutes on each side. When you add the chops, don't try to move them around. They are going to stick to the pan and will stay stuck to the pan until they sear up and release on their own. This is a good indicator to flip them to the other side.
After the meat is browned on both sides, remove it from the pan and reserve on a plate or bowl. No need to keep warm since you are going to finish cooking the chops in the braise. Be sure to save any juices that might bleed out of the chops to add back to the pan later.
Most recipes say to pour off all but a couple of tablespoons of any fat left from the meat or oil in the pan at this point. It's been my experience there is no fat left and I often have to add a little more to sauté the rest of the ingredients.
Add the onion, garlic, fennel and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook these ingredients on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Be sure to stir them often so they don't burn.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the Pernod or anisette and return the pan back to the heat. Shake and cook for about 1 minute. I don't think it will flame up, but if it does, be careful not to burn yourself and have a cover near by if you need to put out the flame.
Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer. At this point add the meat back to the pan and continue to cook until the internal temperature of the meat is about 155F. Remove the meat from the pan and keep warm by loosely covering with foil.
Add the cream and reduce the sauce until it begins to thicken to your desired consistency. When I first tasted the sauce before adding the cream, I thought it was a little bitter from too much Pernod or the fennel. The original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of Pernod but I reduced it to two. Your choice. Adding the cream got rid of the bitter taste so that's why I like using it.
We served the pork on a bed of egg noodles with sauerkraut and applesauce on the side.
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