Sauce dresses up bland pork chops

When I was in high school, my mom and I threw all kinds of dinner parties.

OK, she threw the parties and I helped with the cooking. Our go-to entree was veal scaloppini. I liked it no matter how we cooked it. At the time it seemed so fancy.

Now I realize that it was all about the sauce. In its velvety blandness, veal really is little more than an excuse for sauce.

This recipe substitutes pork chops for veal. A generation ago, this switcheroo wouldn’t have worked; the chops would have been too rich and fatty. But modern-day engineering has turned pork chops into that other white meat.

They have very little fat and, consequently, very little flavor. Fat is a conductor of flavor, as well as a provider of moisture.

Accordingly, one of today’s standard-issue supermarket pork chops is nearly as suitable as veal as a vehicle for sauce, and it’s cheaper, too.

A pan sauce,, which is what is called for in this recipe, is built from the concentrated bits of juice left in the bottom of a skillet after you’ve seared a protein.

Transforming those flavorful little nuggets into a sauce requires nothing more intricate than dissolving them with the aid of a liquid, usually wine and stock, and adding some extra flavor, often in the form of sauteed shallots or onions.

Still, you’re going to want to thicken this sauce.

What to do? Coat the chops with flour, preferably Wondra, an instant flour that Granny used to use. It will not only thicken the sauce, but keep the meat from drying out even as it provides a crisper crust than regular all-purpose flour.

Sauteed pork chops and grapes with mustard sauce

4 1/2-inch-thick boneless pork chops (about 1 pound total), trimmed of any fat

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Wondra flour, for dredging the pork chops

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1 cup seedless red or green grapes, halved

1/4 cup dry white wine

3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. One at a time, dip the pork chops in the flour, coating them well on both sides, but shaking off the excess.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the chops to the pan and cook until lightly browned on the first side, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, turn the chops and cook for 1 minute on the second side. Transfer them to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Add the onion and grapes to the skillet, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the wine and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring, until the wine is reduced to 1 tablespoon. Add the stock and sugar and simmer until the broth is reduced by half.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, return the pork to the skillet, along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate and simmer very gently, turning the pork several times, for 1 minute. Transfer each pork chop to a serving plate. Add the mustard to the sauce, whisking, then season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce evenly over each portion and serve right away.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 280 calories; 100 calories from fat (36 percent of total calories); 11 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 65 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 26 g protein; 660 mg sodium.

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