This is my version of pork with sauce charcutiere, which I first tasted at The Silver Skates, a Dutch-French restaurant in Marlboro, Vermont, where I worked as a waitress in the early 1970's. I don't recall whether they brined the pork chops, but I always do. The brine keeps the chops nice and moist, and the herbs give the flavor of the meat interesting complexity. The sharp acidity and crunch of the pickles in the savory, creamy mustard sauce beautifully complement the richness of the pork. —zora
Herb-brined Pork Chops
Pork loin or rib chops, bone-in or boneless and not too thin
celery stalk, with leaves
stems of parsley, same of fresh thyme
lavender flowers, optional
water with ice cubes
Pickle and Mustard Cream
vegetable oil with a high smoke point (grapeseed, peanut, ricebran, avocado)
clove garlic, crushed
dry marsala, dry vermouth, white wine or dry sherry, for deglazing the pan
cornichons or 1/4 cup other crunchy vinegar pickles, chopped
capers, rinsed and chopped
veal or chicken stock
heaping tablespoons of whole grain mustard
generous grinding of black pepper
of chopped fresh herbs: Italian parsley, tarragon, thyme
lemon zest and a few drops of lemon juice
Make the brine, combining all brine ingredients in a saucepan, except the pork chops and the ice water. Simmer on a low flame for 20 minutes and allow to steep off the heat for another 20-30 minutes. When cool, strain out the solids and add the ice water. Refrigerate until completely cold.
Trim excess fat from the pork chops and put them into a gallon-sized zip-lock bag. Pour the brine into the bag and seal it, squeezing out as much air as possible. Put the filled bag into a bowl and refrigerate for 4 hours minimum, or overnight.
When ready to cook, remove chops from brine and pat dry. Discard the used brine.
Allow the chops to sit at room temperature for a half hour. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed saute pan, ideally one that will hold all of the chops. On fairly high heat, brown chops on both sides, then lower the flame and cook until chops feel firm and are close to completely cooked.
Remove chops to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Pour off all of the fat from the pan. Add butter, and before it burns, the shallots and garlic, stirring to saute. When the shallots are translucent, add the wine and turn the heat up high, stirring to deglaze the pan. Add the stock, the cornichons and capers and when it comes to a boil, stir in the mustards and then the creme fraiche. Simmer until slightly reduced and thickened. Add the black pepper. Stir in the 3/4 of the chopped herbs, lemon zest and juice. Save about 1/4 of the herbs to sprinkle on after plating. Put the chops back into the pan, adding any juices that are on the plate. Taste the sauce and add salt, if needed--unlikely because of the brine and the many salty ingredients. Spoon the sauce over the chops, and allow the chops to cook for a few moments before plating. Be as generous as possible with the sauce. Serve with mashed potatoes or polenta.