French cuisine, as diverse in its culinary expanse as it is known for its nuance, is perceived by many chefs and amateur cooks as one of the most difficult cuisines to master. While there are definitely techniques that a home cook would deem too daunting even to attempt, the bones and heart of French cooking come from the rustic homes of France. Classic french cooking pairs down on complicated techniques and puts flavour at the forefront before anything else. It’s from these countryside provinces that this recipe is derived, Provençal simply indicating that this is a provincial recipe and has variations throughout France.
The traditional components of Pork chop a la Provençal are a thick-cut bone-in pork chop, a sauce comprised of stock and butter, potatoes, onions, and parsley. To reflect our region in this recipe, we are going to add parsnips and Albertan garlic. Parsnips have an inherent sweetness to them that brings out more savoury notes in the pork chops, and, well, a recipe just isn’t complete without garlic.
• 2 cups chicken stock. Reserve 1/4 cup
• 4 one-inch thick, bone-in pork chops (you may have to request it from the meat counter at the grocery store)
• Salt & pepper
• 8 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes
• 4 parsnips
• 3 slices of thickly cut bacon (unsmoked if possible) or thickly cut pancetta
• 8 pearl onions
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
into 3 portions
• 3/4 cup water
• 1 tsp flour
• 1/4 cup cut parsley
• 1/2 sprig rosemary
• 6 sprigs thyme
1) Preheat your oven to 350 F.
2) Pour 1 3/4 cups of chicken stock into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce the temperature to a steady simmer and let the stock reduce down to 1/2 cup while you prep the rest of your ingredients. Once the stock is reduced, remove from heat and set aside.
Do your Mise en Plas.*
*When talking to chefs or cooks, you may hear them use the term Mise en Plas; this simply translates to “everything in its place.” It is the practice of completing any preparation that may hinder your service. Here, we are doing it between steps two and three because it makes the most sense timing-wise. However, you can do this step before you reduce your chicken stock if that makes more sense for you.
• Season your pork on both sides with salt and pepper, and set aside.
• Peel potatoes and cut into Batonettes (basically a thick French fry), cover with water to prevent browning and set aside.
• Peel and cut parsnips into quarters roughly the same size as the potato
• Medium dice your bacon or pancetta
• Peel your pearl onions
• Mince garlic
• Then begin preparing your meal.
3) Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan, reduce heat to simmer and add peeled pearl onions with the first portion of butter. Let the onions cook in the water and butter until the water has completely evaporated. Before the onions brown or take on any colour, remove from heat and set aside.
4) Keeping an eye on the onions, start your pork chops by heating a pan up on medium-high heat, and add in a tablespoon of olive oil and the second portion of butter. Add in the pork chops, followed by the rosemary and thyme sprigs, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. It is alright to do this step in two batches if needed (you may need an additional two tablespoons of butter if the butter burns before starting your second batch of chops. If this is the case, wipe out burnt butter with a paper towel before continuing). Cook the pork chops so that they take on a nice, even brown colour on both sides.
• If the butter is browning or burning too quickly, reduce the heat of your pan.
• If the pork chop isn’t browning but cooking through, increase the temperature of your pan. At this step, it is more important to get colour on the pork chop than it is to cook it through.
5) Strain water from your potatoes and add them with the parsnips into the frying pan (If you need to cook pork chops in two batches, add the potatoes and parsnips in the second batch.)
6) Remove the pork chop from the pan once it has an even golden colour on both sides and set in a casserole dish. Put the pork chops into the oven to finish cooking (pork is finished cooking at an internal temperature of 145 F). If you have already achieved this temperature while cooking in the pan, you can skip this step.
7) Turn the temperature of the stove down to medium heat and add the bacon or pancetta and the parsley to the cooking vegetables. Let the fat render from the bacon.
8) Once the bacon has just about become crisp, add the garlic and cook until you can see a piece or two go brown. Immediately remove the pan from heat, and with a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes, parsnip and bacon/pancetta from the pan. Pour the grease into a container to later be disposed of. With a paper towel, wipe any leftover bits of parsley, thyme, rosemary, or grease out of the pan.
9) To make the sauce that goes over the pork chop, bring the pan back to the stove and deglaze with 1/4 cup of reserved stock. Deglazing loosens all the flavour bits that have been building in the pan, the proteins from the porkchop, and any leftover garlic or onion. If you were to make the sauce without deglazing, these proteins run the risk of burning and turning your pan sauce bitter.
10) Let the deglazed chicken stock reduce at medium heat until about a tablespoon remains. Incorporate in the teaspoon of flour, whisking with a fork to remove any lumps. Let this paste cook for one minute. Slowly incorporate your reduced chicken stock from step one and whisk quickly to combine. When fully combined, whisk in the final batch of butter until it is completely melted into the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
11) Finally, to plate up this dish, lay your vegetable and bacon mixture on the plate, lay a pork chop bone up on the mix, loosely scatter some pearl onions around the plate and dress with a healthy portion of the sauce over everything. Finish with parsley, if you desire, and enjoy.