“Is there any better, more noble, more magical animal than the pig?” – Anthony Bourdain.
Probably not, Tony.
This dish illustrates exactly what Bourdain means. It’s quick, easy, cheap but still manages to be quite understated and authentic. It’s a French classic that showcases the pig perfectly.
The key to the whole dish is the pork. It should be good quality and the chop should be thickly cut, with any excess fat from the rind trimmed away. Be sure to leave some fat. Half of the point of cooking pork is for the fat, after all.
Heat an oven proof frying pan over a medium flame and add olive oil and a chunk of butter. Season the thick chops with salt and pepper and brown them in the pan, two or three minutes for each side.
When the chops have browned, put the whole pan into an oven preheated to 190c and cook for eight minutes.
Set the cooked chops to one side, on a warm plate loosely covered with foil.
The frying pan will have a nice coating of slightly burnt on pork residue, which as anybody who has ever made gravy will now, is very important. Very important indeed.
Put the pan on the heat again and add a small, finely chopped onion and let it fry until slightly coloured. Sprinkle in a tablespoon of plain flour and scrape away at the bottom of the pan, cooking the flour through and lifting some of the burnt on bits into the onions.
Add half a glass of white wine and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping all the time. The bottom of the pan must be completely clean. When the wine has reduced by about a half, top the pan up with a cup of rich, dark chicken stock and let it bubble for a few minutes.
The stock is important.
A stock cube or a powder won’t be good enough. The stock should be home made, reduced and concentrated. It should pack some punch, have some guts to it. A thin, weak stock, or a cube of chicken-flavoured MSG will ruin the whole dish. You might as well not bother.
Whisk in two teaspoons of Dijon mustard and up to ten thinly sliced cornichons, or small gherkins. Taste the sauce, and add more mustard or seasoning if it needs it. When you’re happy, add a small handful of finely chopped flat leaved parsley, or you could, as I did, just completely forget this step.
This is fast food. It should take no more than about a quarter of an hour from the moment the chop first hits the pan to the moment it hits the plate.
Serve with bread and some steamed carrots, beans or the like, or maybe a salad.
This is from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, an encyclopedia of French classics. Bourdain’s food is very attractive, well thought through and typically straightforward and in your face.
He knows how to cook, and he knows that you probably don’t.
He isn’t afraid to mock you for this.
He’ll teach you how to cook French food well, though, and your life will be better for owning his book