By contributing writer Mary Cressler.
Since we’re still in the thick of summer, that means we’re still grilling all of our meals at home these days.
As much as I like grilling chicken at home, my husband’s preference is pork. We cook a lot of pork! When we’re not smoking a full on pork shoulder to be used for pulled pork sandwiches, we do a lot of pork tenderloin. But since there are several matches here on Wine4.Me that speak to pork tenderloin (see below), I decided to focus on a part of the pig that doesn’t get a lot of respect (in my opinon) – pork chops.
Whenever I hear the words “pork chops,” I’m instantly transported to childhood with Peter Brady’s voice in my head repeating, “pork chops and applesauce” (please tell me I’m not alone).
But pork chops can often tend to be boring, rough, and overcooked. When cooked right, however, they can be just as tasty as any other cut of pork. And with the right side, or sauce, they can be elevated to, dare I say, fancy. Pair that with the right wine, and you’ve got a fantastic meal!
I liken pork to chicken. And no, by that I don’t mean “the other white meat.” But instead, the understanding that pork, like chicken, can often take on external flavors, depending on how it is cooked, what it is cooked in or on, any sauces or rubs that may be added, etc. There are lean parts of pork and fatty. The latter, it can be argued, has more flavor.
And like chicken, pork can be just as well matched for white wines as it can red.
I was craving Pinot Noir recently. I live in Oregon–can you blame me? But I’ve been trying a lot of Pinots from outside of my home state and have been impressed by quite a few. Incidentally, Pinot is a natural match for pork (sweet, smoky, earthy, juicy, and delicious). Add some earthy sautéed mushrooms into a creamy sauce and drizzle over the top of your grilled pork chop, and you’ve created a perfect match for an earthy and fruity Pinot Noir.
But I also told you white wines work just as well as red. My favorite for the preparation of this particular dish is a barrel aged Chardonnay. Not only does the butteriness and fruity flavor of Chardonnay make for a match for this flavorful and juicy cut of meat, but the creamy mushroom sauce is a winner for the textures and creamy feel of many Chardonnays (especially those that have spent time aging in oak).
- 2 pork chops (I recommend bone in)
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ⅓ cup red onion, finely diced
- 2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely diced
- ½ cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Season pork chops with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
- Preheat grill to medium high indirect heat.
- Place pork chops on direct heat for up to five minutes per side, just enough for grill marks, and then flip for another four or five minutes to get grill marks on the other side.
- Move pork chops to indirect heat and cover for up to eight minutes or until thermometer reads 145 degrees for medium rare.
- At the same time the grill is prepping, preheat a large pan to medium-high heat.
- Add olive oil and butter, and as it melts, add the onions. Sautee onions for three to five minutes (until translucent).
- Add the mushrooms to the onions and sauté for another five to six minutes until color is dark (browned). Don’t be surprised when you add mushrooms to see the liquid soak into mushrooms. (If you have a small pan, remove onions while you sauté mushrooms then add them back after they are browned).
- Add the wine and let simmer for about 2 minutes to allow some of the alcohol to cook out and the liquid to reduce.
- Add the thyme and cream and season with salt and pepper. Stir over medium heat until it comes to simmer, then reduce heat to low. It will thicken up some. It’s ready to serve after a few minutes on low.
- Pour the sauce over the pork chops and serve with your favorite sides.
As mentioned above, there are several wines that would work great with this dish, but I focused on Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay to bring out the earthy characteristics from the mushrooms and the barrel aging in the wines, which is also enhanced by the char from grilling the meat.
2013 Dreaming Tree Chardonnay (Central Coast, California) — $15
Any Dave Matthews fans in the house? This Chardonnay is a collaboration between musician Dave Matthews and winemaker Steve Reeder, aimed at capturing the spirit of California’s wine country. The wine had lots of fresh apple and pear aromas with some sweet oak. Slightly buttery yet fresh and spicy with nice acidity on the palate along with some creamy toasty vanilla that lingers on the finish. I really liked this wine. It was creamy but not a butter bomb, and the spicy and toasty notes really blended well with the grilled meat and creamy mushroom sauce.
2012 Davis Bynum “Jane’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, California) — $40
This wine was quite a treat. It started with some earthy tones along with some cranberry and dark cherry fruit aromas. It had lots of vibrant acidity in the mouth along with some sweet vanilla oak. The dark red berry fruit and earthy characteristics on the wine were a great match for the juicy and sweet flavors of the pork, and the mild oak flavors stood up well to any charred grilled bits of the meat. This would be an elegant choice for a quiet date night meal.
Alternative pairings for this dish: Rhone style red blends and Riesling, all of which you can find quality recommendations for on the Wine4.Me app.
Do you have any favorite pairings for grilled pork chops?
Disclosure: Both wines were samples sent to me for review. The opinions in this post are my own.
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Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners.
She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.