I can't even remember the last time I had a pork chop. Like the boneless skinless chicken breast, all too many pork chops are overcooked to the point of being dry, chewy, not at all pleasant. However I recently took the plunge and invested in a sous vide setup. With sous vide, food is cooked sealed in a plastic bag in a water bath held at a very precise temperature by a device called an immersion circulator. By doing so, you get perfectly cooked results every time. It's rapidly becoming all the rage and more affordable to home cooks (early incarnations were well over $1000!).
With precise cooking, we can cook proteins such as pork chops or chicken breasts to tender juicy perfection, and finish with a nice sear in a cast-iron skillet to get the Maillard reaction going to build a tasty crust.
I've been using the ChefSteps temperature guide for determining times and temps to cook proteins (also a great site for all things sous vide). In this case, they recommend 144 for medium-rare pork chops, but I chose to take it down to 140. The results are delicious and perfectly food-safe with the long cooking times of sous vide. If you're concerned, Douglas Baldwin maintains an extremely comprehensive guide on pasteurization times and temps for proteins.
This recipe is technically my second sous vide experiment, but the first (chicken breast) was not quite photogenic or mind-blowing enough to warrant a post. Regardless, both dishes are following a loose formula from ChefSteps for weeknight dinners - make a vegetable puree, top it with a fresh salad or vegetables, and stack your protein on top. Makes for a tasty and pretty meal every time. The puree is this recipe is made from celery root, also called celeriac, which is a strange and gross-looking root that is white and mild-tasting on the inside. The endive is me attempting to use up leftovers in a creative way, but adds a nice hint of bitterness to the dish.
For 1 serving.
For the pork:
1 bone-in pork chop
Several thyme sprigs
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp butter
For the celeriac puree:
1 celery root
1/2 white onion
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup milk
For the carrots:
1 small handful carrots, about 4-5, peeled
2 tsp butter
1 cup chicken broth
Water, as needed
For the endive:
1/2 endive, sliced lengthwise
1 tsp butter
Sous vide setup
Vacuum sealer (optional)
Blender or food processor
Prepare the pork: heat your sous vide unit to 140F. Add the pork to a vacuum seal bag or ziplock freezer bag. Season with salt and pepper, and add the thyme sprigs, ideally on the bottom side of the meat in case of unsightly indent. Add a teaspoon or two of olive oil to the bag.
Vacuum seal the bag or use the water displacement method and drop it in the water bath to cook for at least 1 hour and at most 3 hours.
Prepare the celeriac puree: peel the hard outer layer of the celery root and dice into 1-inch cubes. Dice the onion into very rough quarters. Place both in a small pot on medium heat, add the water and milk, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the celery root is tender. Keep an eye on the milk to make sure it doesn't boil over.
When the celery root is tender, transfer all ingredients to a blender and blend very thoroughly until smooth. Optionally strain for even smoother puree, then transfer back to the pot and keep warm.
Prepare the carrots: trim and peel the carrots and start them cooking. Heat a small amount of oil on medium heat in a dutch oven or skillet large enough to lay the carrots flat in, and saute the carrots with salt and pepper for about two minutes. Add the butter, chicken broth, and enough water to just cover the carrots. Put on a lid and cook until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
Prepare the endive: when the pork is almost finished cooking, heat a skillet used for searing such as cast-iron (not nonstick!) to very hot, and char the endive with a very small amount of oil and the butter until deeply browned. Set aside.
When the pork is finished, remove it from the bag and dry the outside with paper towels. Heat the skillet used for the endive to very hot and add a small of high smoke point oil. Sear the pork chop for about 2 minutes on one side to develop a nice crust. Flip the pork chop, add the thyme and garlic to the pan, and drop in the butter. Baste the chop with the butter as it melts for another 2 minutes. Remove the pork from the pan.
To plate: Place about 4 large spoonfuls of the puree in the center of a plate, and smear with the back of a spoon to make a large circle. Place the carrots on top, and the pork chop on top of the carrots. Lean the endive on the side of the chop. Add some finishing salt such as Maldon to the top of the pork chop.