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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cooking, Southern Style

Smothered Pork Chop, Mushrooms, and Onions with Sides
Southerners long ago perfected the art of braising—the technique that calls for cooking meats or vegetables until tender in simmering liquids over a long period of time. My husband grew up in Birmingham, and I in Memphis with mothers who described themselves as amateur cooks, but who were, in fact, gifted braisers. Ron’s mom made the best pot roast ever by browning her beef and vegetables thoroughly, and then simmering both in water in a covered pan. My mother’s specialties included “country fried” cube steaks and smothered pork chops. For both dishes she would dust the meat lightly with flour, sauté it with onions, add water, and leave the mixture to cook for several hours until fork tender.

My Southern table
All of this is a lead in as to why we hosted a Southern dinner last weekend. One of my spouse’s new friends is a recently arrived administrator at Amherst College where he teaches.

When we discovered that Biddy had been raised south of the Mason-Dixon line, we had an excuse to serve some of our childhood favorites in this small New England town.

Smothered Pork Chops with Mushrooms and Onions, an adaption of my mother’s original, was the star attraction of the night. Mashed potatoes with leeks, tender little green beans (redolent of the pole beans of my youth), and fried okra and tomatoes were sides. There was a basket of cornbread (no sugar in it!), and chocolate caramel pecan cake for dessert. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I made Sandra Gutierrez’s fabulous pimento cheese (another Dixie specialty) from The New Southern-Latino Table as an appetizer to serve with Belgian endive leaves.  

Southern roots or not, I hope you’ll try the following recipe!

Smothered Pork Chops with Mushrooms and Onions

4 center cut pork chops, 7 to 8 ounces each (about 2 pounds total) cut 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick (preferably well marbled)
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more if needed
4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more if needed
2 cups sliced onions
1/2 pound brown mushrooms such as Baby Bellas, sliced through stems 1/4 inch thick
2 to 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock plus more if needed
2/3 to 1 cup dry white wine
2 medium cloves garlic, mashed and peeled
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels. Stir rosemary, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Rub some of the seasonings on each side of each chop.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet (with a lid) over medium heat until hot (a drop of water should sizzle when added to the pan). Add chops and cook until browned well, about 4 minutes per side, 8 minutes total. Remove chops to a dinner plate.

3. Add 2 tablespoons or more olive oil to the skillet (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and heat until oil is hot. Add onions, and, sauté, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and continue to cook and stir until both are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes more.

4. Return the chops and any juices collected on the plate to the pan. Add 2 cups of stock, 2/3 cup of wine, and garlic cloves, and bring liquids to a simmer. Lower heat, cover, and cook at a simmer until meat is very tender when pierced with a sharp knife, for 1 to 1 hour and 15 minutes or more, depending on thickness of chops. Check the meat several times while it is simmering, and if liquids are evaporating too quickly, add up to 1 cup more stock and 1/3 cup more wine. (Chops can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, covered, over medium heat.)

5. To serve, taste the sauce and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Remove the pork chops to a platter and with a slotted spoon arrange mushrooms and onions over them. Cover with foil. Remove and discard garlic cloves. If sauce is too thick, stir in a little extra stock and heat sauce a minute or two in skillet over medium heat. If sauce is thin, heat it in skillet over high heat for a few minutes to reduce. Ladle sauce over chops and sprinkle with parsley.

Note: This recipe can be doubled, but you will probably need to use two skillets to cook 8 chops.


  1. Looks so so good. Even though I'm Southern born and raised, this isn't something I knew how to do. Now I know because you told me. I'm glad that blue laws are a thing of the past because I'm going to the store for pork chops, mushrooms, dry white wine.....thank you, Betty!

  2. So glad you're going to try these chops and hope your family enjoys them as much as ours. BTW I never had a recipe for smothered chops either. I finally took notes as I was making them for this dinner party!!

  3. This sounds so delicious! It will be on our menu this weekend.

  4. It's really simple and easy--hope you and Chuck like it!