Smothered Pork Chops
These “fall off the bone” pork chops are fork tender and incredibly moist. Smothered in a thick rich onion gravy, this sure to please one-skillet dish is amazingly simple to prepare, and makes the perfect dinner for a school-night or on a busy weekend.
The method of preparing smothered pork chops falls somewhere between, or is a combination of two techniques, braising and fricassee. Braising typically involves browning meat in a fat, then cooking it tightly covered with a small amount of liquid over low heat for an extended period of time. The long slow method develops rich flavors and tenderizes the meat by breaking down the fibers. In a classic fricassee, the meat is first cut in to small pieces, browned in butter, and then cooked tightly covered, usually with vegetables in a white sauce, yielding a stew like dish with very tender flavorful pieces of meat. Either method can be prepared on top of the stove or in the oven, however one of the keys to both is a well-fitting lid.
My mother would use this method with a variety of meats. Chicken, pork, and steak can all be prepared in the same fashion, which by the way is a great technique for cooking some of the less expensive, otherwise tough cuts of meat.
Normally I begin with a large non-stick skillet that has a tight-fitting lid (it is important that what ever pan you use has a lid that fits well). I used my grill pan this time simply to reduce the amount of fats that would be going in to the dish, plus I just got one and have been playing with it. I heat the skillet over medium high heat, add a few tablespoon of oil and brown the meat on both sides. I do not cook the meat through, we only to get some nice color on the meat at this point. Don’t be concerned about the meat not being cooked in the center, low and slow in the gravy with take care of that.
Once the meat is browned I remove it from the skillet and drain off any excess fats if need be. Be sure to leave the crispy brown bits in the pan, they are going to bring some amazing deep flavor to the gravy. As far as seasoning the meat before I brown it really just depends on if I plan to use a canned cream soup for my base, or if I intend to make my own. Even the reduced sodium cream soups tend to taste salty, so if I am using one I do not salt the meat first. This is also a personal preference however my general rule is that you can always add salt, but it is rather hard to remove.
Next I reduce the heat to medium and add about a tablespoon of oil. I toss in one yellow onion which I chop in medium-sized pieces (if they are too small they disappear in the cooking process). I lightly salt the onions and saute them until they become soft and just begin to take on a bit of caramel color. I then add a few cloves of minced garlic, cooking for just a few minutes to bloom the flavor. Do not be concerned about the brown bits or any onions that are sticking, the gravy will deglaze the pan.
Now here is where you have a choice to either use a can of condensed cream of onion or mushroom soup, or make your own white sauce. Honestly I quite often just grab the can, quick and easy. All I do is dump in the soup, and then using the can for a measuring cup I add about one and a half to two cans of chicken or vegetable stock. I mix the soup well making sure everything is combined scraping up any loose bits that may have stuck to the skillet. I bring the soup to a boil, then work the chops down into the gravy so they are covered by the sauce, put the lid on and reduce heat to a simmer. Resist the temptation to take the lid off during cooking, it is important to keep the lid on to maintain temperature. An hour later, I test the chops with tongs to see if they are falling apart, if not I let them go another fifteen and check them again.
If you don’t want to use the soup, add two to three tablespoons of flour to the caramelized onions and stir to coat. Cook about three minutes to eliminate the flour taste before adding a couple of cups of milk. I add a couple of cups of stock in addition to the milk. Everything else is handled the same.
- 4 8 to 10 ounce bone-in pork chops or one per person
- 3 Tablespoon canola oil
- 1 medium-sized yellow onion diced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 can condensed cream of onion or mushroom soup
- 1½-2 cans chicken or vegetable stock use the soup can to measure
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- salt & pepper to taste
- In a large skillet with a well-fitting lid, brown the pork chops over medium high heat in 2 tablespoons of oil.
- Remove the chops from the skillet and drain off any excess oil.
- Reduce heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of oil. When oil begins to shimmer, add onions and season lightly with salt. Cook onions until they become soft and begin to caramelize. Add garlic and cook for one minute.
- Add the condensed soup to the pan. Using the empty can for a measure add 1½ to 2 cans of stock. Add the Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine. Increase heat to medium high bringing liquid to a boil.
- Return the chops to the soup, working them down in to the gravy. Cover the pan with the lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer covered for at least one hour.
- Test the chops with tongs, the meat should easily pull apart when finished. Cook longer if needed.
- Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
- Served over a bed of wide egg noodles and a side of green vegetables, this dish makes a dinner everyone will love.
I like to use bone-in pork chops as I think they have the best flavor, but you can use what ever cut you prefer.
Plan one chop per person, do not overcrowd the pan. I use a can of condensed cream of onion soup for this recipe. Feel free to make your own sauce, I have described that method above if you need.
Make sure to use a pan with a well-fitting lid.