Being so far from my mom during the holidays makes me more homesick than usual. The best way to temporarily remedy this feeling is by cooking something that reminds me of her: a hearty bowl of pasta with a rich sherry cream sauce.
As a child, my dad did most of the cooking: pot roasts on Sunday with carrots, mashed potatoes, and gravy; baked pike after one of his weekend Flagstaff fishing excursions; lasagna, heavy with meat and ricotta. If you were hungry, you went to dad. The kitchen was his domain. But, on special occasions, when mom had time between her school work and actual work, she would break out her skillet and cook up a batch of pasta with pork, raisins, and a sherry cream sauce. She made other dishes from time to time, but this was my favorite.
For this recipe, I substituted cranberries for raisins, because I like that flavor better with the cream sauce. I also added roasted pumpkin, toasted pine nuts, and a pinch of chopped tarragon for the garnish.
This recipe yields enough pasta for four people.
1 lb cooked but al dente tagliatelle, short-cut pasta
½ cup diced onion
1 tbl minced garlic
1 ¼ cup sherry wine
1 tbl white flour
1 cup chicken stock, unsalted
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tbl butter, unsalted
1 cup spiced, roasted pumpkin cubes
1 lb of cooked and julienned pork chop (thick cut strips, about 1 cm in diameter)
¼ cup dried cranberries (could substitute for dried sour cherries too, for a little zing)
½ tbl fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tbl toasted pine nuts
1 tbl finely shredded Parmesan cheese.
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, flakes or powder (optional)
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp dried oregano
Before starting this recipe, I want to make clear that you have two options here: you can make a more-or-less white cream sauce or a nutty brown cream sauce. The color that you want in your sauce dictates how you follow the steps. Below, I will tell you to cook your pork in the pan, then remove to cool. You will add a small amount of sherry to deglaze the pan (that means use the wine to rinse the pan while it’s still hot, to get all that yummy brown stuff left over on the bottom of the pan up and into a broth form. This will mix into your roux.) I prefer that process because I like the transformed flavor of the roux, but it makes your sauce brown. If you want a white sauce, cook the pork and the sauce in separate pans.
- Heat oven to 350˚ of your pork chops are an inch or more thick.
- Rinse de-boned pork chop cutlets in kitchen sink, dry with paper towels, and then set aside.
- Mix dry spice ingredients together in a small bowl or ramekin.
- Grab you pork, rub each cutlet down with a smidgen of olive oil. Dust those chops with the dry spice rub. Make sure that they are not crusted but that they have enough spice to ensure flavor. Set back on the plate (trash the used, damp paper towel). Set aside.
- Heat medium to large sauté pan on stove at high temp for 2 or three minute. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan as you wait for it to heat. Just when the olive oil begins to smoke, cut the heat down to medium and add your pork chops to the pan.
- Sear the chops on both sides while pan is nice and hot. After about a minute of heat per side, you should see some nice caramelized brown colors.
- If you too used thin, boneless chops, let them finish cooking in the pan on medium heat (5 to 6 minutes total cook time). Then, set them into the microwave to stay warm while you make the cream sauce. If your chops are an inch or more thick, you should probably finish them in the oven on bake, this retains moisture and flavor.
- To bake: remove the chops from the pan after caramelizing both sides of the meat (1 min per side). Lay them onto a foil-lined baking sheet (again foil-lined is just my preference), and place them into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. The thickness of your chops will be the true indicator of time needed in the oven. You want the centers bright white and moist, not pink not gray.
- Once the meat is cooked, remove from the pan, julienne meat so that eat piece is about ½ thick in diameter, and set somewhere to stay warm.
- Now, add the diced onions and a little olive oil to the still hot pan. Also, a pinch of kosher salt (up to 1/8 teaspoon of salt). Cook until the onions are translucent and fragrant (about 5 to 10 minutes). At about 8 minutes, add your minced garlic. You do not want the garlic to become brown. Give the garlic and onion mixture a few stirs. After 2 or 3 more minutes, 1/4 cup sherry to deglaze the pan. Stir the sherry with the onions and garlic, really scraping the pan.
- About 2 minutes later, lower stove heat to medium, cut in your unsalted butter, and stir until melted. Now, add the tablespoon of flour to make your roux. Stir until the flour is well incorporated and pasty.
- With heat still on medium, pour in your remaining sherry, the chicken stock, and your heavy whipping cream. Bring to boil. Then cut heat to low-medium. Add dried cranberries. Let sauce reduce for about 5 to 10 minutes, occasionally stirring so that it does not burn. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- After the sauce has reduced to roughly half its original volume–it should be able to thickly coat the back of a metal spoon–remove from heat. Add your cooked yet al dente, drained tagliatelle pasta to the sauce. Toss. Add in the pumpkin cubes and julienned pork. Toss. Place pan back over medium heat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove. Cut Heat. Garnish with chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts, and thinly shredded Parmesan cheese.