I’m a pretty big fan of Giada de Laurentiis; in addition to learning a heckuva lot about Italian cookery from her, she’s just a big sweetheart.  Anyways — lazy cookery mode in still in full swing — I was thinking about what to make for dins tonight without taking up too much time (there’s Diablo III to play) and WHAMO! a pasta craving hit me.

I haven’t made stuffed manicotti in years, and was pottering about online for ideas when I came across a recipe of Giada’s.  I’m pretty sure I’ve made it before, but looking at the ingredients now, I’m shocked by the FAT content there must be in this recipe — FAT that I don’t particularly think adds any flavor.  We all want to enjoy full-flavored food (FFF), but this just sounds unnecessarily heavy and not that tasty.  So I’ve decided to fix it.

Giada's FAT Beef and Cheese Manicotti

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For the Honor of Lazy, or a Simple Dinner

UGH!  I am the absolute worst about posting updates to this blog despite my good intentions; I mean, my kimchi post is DONE and waiting to be uploaded but I’ve been too lazy to grab the photos off my camera!  I am shameless!

In honor of that laziness, today I’m posting a pretty basic recipe that I like to do on weeknights (sans pictures, of course, which kind of makes for a crappy blog, but oh well). I generally use pork with it, but it can be used with chicken breasts or even salmon.  And heck, if you don’t have tarragon, use thyme; if you don’t have vermouth, use white wine or all chicken stock.  I like to serve this with some green beans and some crusty bread, which, you can imagine, is the perfect utensil for mopping up the extra sauce (as this recipe provides more than you will possibly need).

Sauteed Pork Chops with Tarragon and Mustard Sauce
Serves  4.

4 boneless pork chops, about 3/4″ thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 bunch scallions, white and pale green parts, chopped
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1 glove garlic, finely minced or grated
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup good Dijon mustard
1 tsp good stone-ground mustard
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel, and sprinkle the tops with black pepper and then the salt, generously.  Once the pan has come to heat (the oil should be shimmering slightly, but not smoking), place the chops in, seasoned side down.  They should sizzle.  Season the exposed side of the chops and cook until both sides are browned, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove the chops to a plate.

Ditch the oil from the pan, lower the heat to medium, and add the butter, chopped scallions, red pepper flakes, dried tarragon, and a sprinkle of salt.  Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the scallions have softened and the tarragon is very fragrant.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.

Pour in the vermouth and let it bubble up fiercely, scraping any brown bits from the bottom.  Add the chicken stock, the reserved pork chops and any of their juices collected on the plate, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the heavy cream, mustards, and tarragon in a measuring cup.  After the 5 minutes are up, remove the pork chops to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil.  Add the cream mixture to the pan and whisk to incorporate.  Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened nicely. Taste for seasonings and pour over chops.