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October 16, 2013

A healthy, grapey pan sauce with pork chops

When I was in high school, my mom and I threw all kinds of dinner parties.

OK, she threw the parties and I helped with the cooking. Our go-to entree was veal scallopini. I liked it no matter how we cooked it. At the time, it seemed so fancy. Now, I realize that it was all about the sauce. In its velvety blandness, veal really is little more than an excuse for sauce, a cake in search of frosting.

This recipe substitutes pork chops for veal. A generation ago, this switcheroo wouldn’t have worked; the chops would have been too rich and fatty. But modern-day engineering has turned pork chops into that other white meat. They have very little fat and, consequently, very little flavor. Fat is a conductor of flavor, as well as a provider of moisture.

Accordingly, one of today’s standard-issue supermarket pork chops is nearly as suitable as veal as a vehicle for sauce — and it’s cheaper, too.

Fine, you say, but isn’t it going to take me a ton of time and effort to make a good sauce? Not necessarily. There are, of course, a world of sauces to choose from, and many of them are indeed big productions. But pan sauces, as I discovered during my restaurant days, are speedy to make, and that’s what this recipe calls for.

A pan sauce is built from the concentrated bits of juice left in the bottom of a skillet after you’ve seared a protein. Transforming those flavorful little nuggets into a sauce requires nothing more intricate than dissolving them with the aid of a liquid, usually wine and stock, and adding some extra flavor, often in the form of sauteed shallots or onions. This template works not just for pork, but for all thin cuts of chicken, lamb, veal and beef.

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