On a crisp January evening a few years back, I decided to tackle two new recipes in a single meal. One was for carrots (a post for another day soon) and the other was for Pork Chops. I don’t know about you, but I simply adore Pork Chops. You can fry them, bake them, grill ’em up on the barbecue – the methods are endless. Slathered in sauce, marinated for intense flavor – whatever.
One of my family’s all time favorites has to be French Onion Pork Chops with Creamy Mashed Potatoes. On the surface, this dish is similar. Just as the French Onion Pork Chops are served with a side of Mashed Potatoes, the Hunter’s Pork Chops also pairs well with a big bowl of mashed spuds. That and the fact that both dishes are made with Pork Chops that are served in a mushroom sauce. Similar, yes – but that’s where the similarities end.
My recipe was inspired by a recipe from Kimberly at the Daring Gourmet. For those of you who like to see the original source of inspiration; I’ve provided a link below:
Let’s talk a minute about Hunter’s Pork Chops. With a name like Hunter’s Pork Chops, you would think there would be some sort of history behind the dish – an interesting little tidbit out there somewhere. If there was, I sure as heck couldn’t find it. At least not by searching “history of . . .” However; ask a different question “where did Hunter’s Pork Chops get its name” and suddenly you are connected to the term Schnitzel.
Schnitzel – a meat that has been thinned using a tenderizer; coated with flour, eggs, bread (or breadcrumbs) and then fried and served with a sauce. Originating in Austria, it is popular in many countries and made using a variety of meats such as veal, mutton, chicken, beef, turkey, reindeer or pork. (Personally, I’d skip the mutton, but would love to try reindeer – guess that precludes me from becoming one of Santa’s helpers). Schnitzel is very similar to the French dish Escalope. Here in America; the same dish can be called many things by many people (Chicken Fried Steak, Country Fried Steak as examples). American dishes are as confusing as American English.
In Europe there are actually different “protections” laws as to what you can and cannot call different foods. This protection is to insure geographical and traditional origins of foods. An example would be Champagne – protected under the law – the bubbly delight comes from the Champagne region of France. Most of us already knew that. But did you know it’s more than just a region restriction – particular plots of land come into play as do the grape types, the way they are pressed, fermented and so on. Any deviation and the sparkling wine cannot carry the prestigious Champagne label. So sorry, that barrel of wild grapes fermenting in your basement is not Champagne, no matter how awesome the “pop” of the cork. Right about now you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with the association of Schnitzel and Hunter’s Pork Chops. I’m getting to that.
In a round about way, nothing and yet everything. The German word for Hunter is Jäger. In Germany, they have a dish called Jägerschnitzel. Jägerschnitzel is a breaded pork chop cooked in a creamy mushroom sauce. Hence Hunter’s Pork Chops. The French also have a sauce – Sauce chasseur, sometimes called “hunter’s sauce”, which is a simple or compound brown sauce used in French cuisine. It is typically made using demi-glace or an espagnole sauce as a base, and often includes mushrooms and shallots. It may also include tomatoes and a finishing of fines herbs. The name Sauce chasseur is derived from the French word for “hunter”, alluding to the traditional pairings with venison, rabbit, wild fowl, and other game meats. Traditionally, while returning from the hunt, the hunters would pick the mushrooms that they would subsequently use for their preparation. Again, clear hints as to the origins of the name “Hunter’s Pork Chops”.
Whatever the reason behind the interesting name, there is no question that this dish is amazing – no – beyond amazing. The sauce is like a Cream of Mushroom sauce that is beyond the ability of verbal description. Heavenly delicious does not even begin to describe how wonderful, how sumptuous – how at a loss for words you will become. Yeah, it’s that darn good. Beyond words good. Throughout dinner that evening, no one spoke in clear sentences. There were a lot of “wow” “oh my gosh” “yum” and so on. No one wanted to stop eating. If we could have climbed inside the plate and lived there forever; that would have been fine.
Hunter’s Pork Chops
6 Boneless 3/4″ thick Pork Chops (preferably Loin)
Salt and Black pepper to taste
1/2 Cup Buttermilk (for dredging)
1 Cup Flour (for dredging)
Vegetable oil for frying (enough to reach about half-way up the chop when placed in the skillet)
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1/8 teaspoon White Pepper
12 medium size Button Mushrooms, sliced
Salt to taste
Season both sides of pork chops with salt and black pepper to taste.
Pour the buttermilk in a pie pan. In a second pie pan, place flour. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet. You are creating an assembly line of sorts – dip, dredge, rack.
Dip each pork chop in the buttermilk to coat both sides and gently shake off excess buttermilk.
Dredge the pork chops in the flour, coating both sides. Carefully lift chops from the flour, holding by an end, as close to the edge as possible. The thickness of the buttermilk and the coating of the flour will rub off easily, so you will want to handle the chops as little as possible. Place chops on the rack and let rest for about 15 minutes. (Using a rack will put as little solid contact with the chops as possible, leaving as much of the coating intact as possible.
While the chops rest, heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet. You will want the oil to be hot enough that a drop of water sputters when thrown in the pan. Anything less and the chops might soak in some of the oil – we don’t want that. When the oil is hot, add the pork chops and fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
While the Pork Chops are frying, slice your mushrooms and measure out the remaining ingredients to have at the ready.
Remove the pork chops to a warm serving platter and cover in foil to help retain the heat. Set platter aside.
CAREFULLY drain most of the hot oil into a metal bowl or disposable can (something that can stand the heat of the oil). Let oil cool before discarding. (I keep a can with a tight-fitting lid in the garage for holding used oil until I can dispose of it properly). You should have about a teaspoon or two of oil left in the skillet and all the brown bits from frying the Pork Chops.
Melt the butter in the skillet with the remaining oil. When the butter just begins to foam, add the flour and stir constantly with a spatula scraping the bottom of the pan. Cook until the mixture is a rich, wonderful caramel-brown, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the milk, stir well to blend, then add the paprika, beef bouillon and white pepper. Continue to stir until thoroughly blended. Over medium-low heat, bring the mixture to a simmer, continuing to stir and scrap. Add the mushrooms and let to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
Nestle the pork chops in the sauce, leaving the tops exposed. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, turning once midway through to generously coat the Pork Chops in the wonderful, rich sauce.
Transfer Pork Chops to a warm, rimmed serving platter. Pour sauce from pan over chops and serve. Be sure to spoon sauce from the platter onto the chops once plated.
Serve and prepare to be blown away.