Sautéed Pork Chops

Makes 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

A straightforward, simple method of cooking pork chops that always gives good results, no matter what seasonings you add. Use center-cut loin chops if at all possible. This will become a favorite; try the variations, too.

4 center-cut loin pork chops, about 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if not using butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon minced garlic or 2 tablespoons minced shallot, onion, or scallion
1/2 cup chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, store-bought broth, or water, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon butter (you can use more olive oil instead, especially if it's flavorful)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or wine vinegar
Minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil; as soon as the first wisps of smoke rise from the oil, add the chops and turn the heat to high. Brown the chops on both sides, moving them around so they develop good color all over. The entire browning process should take no longer than 4 minutes, and preferably less.

2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the wine and the garlic and cook, turning the chops once or twice, until the wine is all but evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of stock or water, turn the heat to low, and cover. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning the chops once or twice, until the chops are tender but not dry. When done, they will be firm to the touch, their juices will run just slightly pink and, when you cut into them (which you should do if you're at all unsure of their doneness), the color will be rosy at first glance but quickly turn pale.

3. Remove the chops to a platter. If the pan juices are very thin, cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced slightly. If they are scarce (unlikely), add another 1/2 cup of stock or water; cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced slightly. Then stir in the butter or oil over medium heat; add the lemon juice, pour over the chops, garnish, and serve.

Shopping Tip: A good pork chop contains some fat, and if you cannot find center cut pork chops that show some marbling, look for shoulder (also called blade) chops; loin-end chops are almost always too lean. Try to find chops that are at least an inch thick-you'll be much happier with one thick chop than two thin ones, which invariably overcook.