Even in otherwise really fabulous cookbooks, one can encounter any number of rather less fabulous never-do laws about the treatment of lean pork in the frying pan. In part, this may be caused by the watery no-good pork selling-practices in some countries. Put a large Dutch pork chop into a small skillet, and it will inevitably begin to boil in its own juices before the cooking fat has had a chance to get things under control. In such a case it is perhaps indeed better to slow-cook or braise it instead (or, in fact, to forget about it right away). But even in the North, with reasonable non-watered pork easily available, no standard professional cooking advice ever helped me to avoid a dry piece of pork. So I threw it all overboard and made this:
I started with a length of lean rib-chop-meat, bone removed (by magic, or perhaps by some Swedish backroom butcher who thought the meat was easier to sell that way). I made nice 1/3-inch-thick slices and put them flat on a plank in order to sprinkle them lightly with freshly-ground black pepper and salt. The first never-do here is the salt before the frying. Old-school meat frying lore tells you that the piece dries out in no time if you do this. Since my lean pan-fried pork always dries out anyway, this didn’t stop me.
I took my large cast-iron skillet and heated three tablespoons of olive oil and four tablespoons of butter slowly but thoroughly, adding chopped parsley and two gigantic leaves of fresh sage during the process. The fat is hot enough when the sage starts to curl and brown slightly around the edges. This is also the time when the butter begins to smell – well: Really Good. “Slowly but thoroughly” means, simply, that you will take special care not to over-heat the butter, while making sure that the skillet is hot all through nevertheless. A little patience goes a long way here.
In goes the meat, with some distance between the pieces, and a rich sizzle should be heard. So this is neither really hot frying, nor the slow half-braising method recommended for pork chops by the faint of heart. This is a healthy fry-me-now method, to be interrupted by one flip-around after about two minutes. About another minute on the other side, and the meat goes onto a waiting (during the winter season: pre-heated) plate.
Now comes the cream sauce, and again, I’m doing everything backward. The fat in the pan has everything: fattiness, meat flavor, parsley, sage and pepper aroma and even a little bit of saltiness. It also isn’t too black (as it would be after a quick steak-fry), so I don’t want to discard it, but rather bind it – with the cream. In other words, no white wine yet for dissolving the cooking residue: the cream goes into the pan first. With the heat on medium high, I stir, test, correct saltiness and reduce the bubbling goo until it starts turning yellow-brown in places. Now it’s time for a good dash of dry white wine (we had something quite nice from Northern Italy today), followed by more bubbling and reducing. Since this sauce is really rich, I don’t have to reduce it very much and can pour it right on top of the chop-slices instead.
The result is neither Plain Old Dry, as the result of real quick-frying or broiling would have been, nor Dry And Tasteless, as any sort of slow braising (for instance in tomato-goo) would have made it, nor Fally-Aparty Fibrous, which is the ideal super-slow-and long barbecue result for fatty cuts like pork shoulder, but would always fail in a lean bit like the ones used here.
As we had it right now, the meat was perfect: firm but tender, tasty, surrounded by just the right amount of creamy sauce, accompanied by two beautiful, crunchy sage leaves and a few scoops of half-fried chopped fresh parsley. Preparation time 15 minutes.