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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stuffed Pork Chops–Fresh Style!

OK, So I’m one of those cooks that likes things natural.  I’m not into cage free, range free, totally preservative free cooking.  I just like to know where my food comes from.  I like to know that my gravy is made from the crusty brown bits at the bottom of the pan, butter, flour and low sodium, fat free chicken stock.  There are no artificial colorings or preservatives.  I know what seasonings I added and for the most part the sodium content.  Have you ever looked at the sodium in a jar of gravy?!?!!? There are some that I use, such as stuffing mix used here, but that’s about it.

One of my other big pet peeves is “cream of” soups.  I wish I could wipe them off of the planet.  I don’t believe that the bits in the cream of mushroom are actually fresh mushrooms, I have no idea what they used to make it, and if it comes out of a can in one large sticky clump, it creeps me out.  Now my mom used them all the time growing up, but my stomach just can’t handle it.  Literally.  Since I started cooking my own food from scratch, anything that has that many preservatives doesn't settle well.  Lets not even talk about the day a few weeks ago that I was craving a good old blue box of mac and cheese.  It was rough for awhile.
So that brings me to stuffed pork chops.  Traditional, home style food.  Basic recipe uses a can of cream of mushroom soup dumped over the pork chops and baked.  No thank you.  Did you know that you can make your own cream of mushroom sauce in about 10 minutes??
Here’s my very own recipe for you to enjoy!

Stuffed pork chops

Serving size: 2 adults, plus one 10 month old


2 bone in pork chops about an inch or two thick
2 cups of stuffing mix (or day old bread cubes seasoned to your liking)
2 T melted butter
about 1/4-1/2 C chicken stock (enough to moisten your stuffing)
1 rib celery chopped
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 a box of sliced button mushrooms
2 sprigs of thyme (or about 1 teaspoon dried)
2 T flour
about 1 1/2-2 cups chicken stock

I’m all about kitchen efficiency so before you even start cutting anything, preheat your oven to 375 and get your pork chops cooking.  Heat a pan large enough to fit all of your chops on medium high.  Once it’s hot, add in a few tablespoons of olive oil and cook your pork chops for a few minutes on each side, you want them to be lightly browned but not cooked all the way through.  It is absolutely essential to wait until your pan is hot!  Never put meat on a cold or warm pan.  The heat sears the meat which not only gives you the lovely crusty outside, but also the juicy inside. 


Don’t sit and stare at them!  While they brown, use that time to chop up your onion and celery for the stuffing!  Multitasking at it’s best!  Once your chops are browned, take them out and just let them hang out on a plate until you are ready for them.  In the very same pot toss in a little more olive oil, half of your onion and the celery.  See what we’re doing here?  The more you use the pot, the more those little crusty bits of flavor accumulate in your pan.  You know all those little browned bits at the bottom?  That’s exactly what creates yummy goodness of flavor in your sauce.  You want them there so resist the urge to clean them out after each bit of cooking!  OK, so you’re cooking your onions and celery for about 3-5 minutes.  You just want them to be a little soft, but not totally cooked – they’ll finish cooking in the oven. 

While those are cooking, start getting your stuffing ready. Put the stuffing mix into a bowl with the melted butter and chicken broth (or chicken stock if you have it, either is fine!).  Let your eyes be the judge of how much stock you need!  It really depends a lot on the brand of stuffing mix you use, or the texture of your own day old bread.  You want all the water to soak in and leave the bread moist, but not so moist that it’s sitting in a big pool of liquid. Once your veggies are all cooked up, add them to the stuffing mix, give it a stir and let it hang out for a bit.

Go back to your very same pot (one pot wonder meal!).  Add in about 2 tablespoons of butter.  You want butter here, not olive oil – you’ll get a much better gravy!  Let the butter melt and throw in your mushrooms thyme, and the other half of your onion.  Now, feel free to add as many as you like.  We personally like the flavor of mushrooms, but not really eating the mushrooms, so I tend to use about half a box and I chop them up pretty small.  Resist the urge to season!!  Salt pulls the water out of them and will make them very tough and chewy so always salt them after they are cooked.  They’ll probably cook about 5-6 minutes before they are dark and meaty looking.


See all the lovely brown bits that I’ve accumulated? So my mushrooms are cooked.  Now it’s time to make the sauce!  Toss in about 2 tablespoons of flour.  You are making a roux, the base of your sauce.  Stir it up and make sure you cook it for about a minute.  You want to cook off the flavor of the flour.  Make sure it’s not much more than a minute though otherwise you risk cooking off the glue that will pull your chicken stock to a nice, thick, sauce.


Once you’ve let it cook for a few minutes start adding your chicken stock.  I also like to play the quantities by ear.  Add in about 3/4 c to 1 cup to start off with.  Stir it up and make sure you get any clumps of flour dissolved and that you scrape up all of those tasty brown bits at the bottom.  Then let it cook.  It needs to heat up a bit before it starts to thicken.  Always start with small amounts of liquid!  It’s easier to thin a sauce out than it is to make it thicker.  Keep adding until you have a thick gravy. I apologize for not having a picture. I was so excited to get dinner in the oven I forgot!

Once your gravy is as thick as you want it, you are ready to assemble!  I personally don’t care to take the time to slice my pork to actually stuff it.  It all tastes the same and it all falls out when you try to cut into it, so why bother?  I prefer the unassembled method so I get extra crunchy dressing on top.  Put each pork chop down in a baking dish.  Put the stuffing in big scoops on top.  Use the rest of the stuffing to fill the rest of the pan.  Then pour your yummy mushroom sauce over everything.  Cover and bake for about 30 minutes.  If you want extra crispiness on top, uncover and broil for a minute or two.

I served it up with some steamed broccoli and purple cauliflower and voila! Dinner!


You know what the best part was?  I cut off chunks of pork and put it in the blender with some stuffing, broccoli and cauliflower and made a little baby puree for my little one.  I felt confident enough with this meal that he was getting fresh ingredients that weren’t full of too many things he shouldn’t be eating.  He absolutely loved it and ate every last bite of it.  Who says the baby has to eat Gerber mush?  Not my baby that’s for sure!

So try it out!  Just skip that can of cream of mushroom soup just this once and tell me that this wasn’t easy, healthy and way more tasty!

Please, please please, if you have any questions or don’t understand what I mean by something – ask me!  I’m a pretty confident cook, so I tend to forget sometimes that not everyone else is. Enjoy!

Until the next time,
The girl behind the lama
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Kristina said...

Thanks for the tips on avoiding cream of mushroom soup - I rely on it often in recipes, but I am excited to try a natural alternative. Where did you find purple cauliflower?

Lama Works said...

No problem - glad you enjoyed it! One of our grocery stores randomly had white, orange and purple cauliflower one day. I don't think I've seen it there since! It stained the water purple, but other than that, tasted just the same to me. It did make for some pretty ugly looking baby food though :)


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