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I picked up some boneless pork loin chops at Food City the other day — the price was a little bit too hard to resist, two big chops for under $3. Granted, they were in the part of the meat department case that was marked down because the sell-by date would expire by the next day. Rather than putting them in the freezer, I decided to go ahead and cook them that day. But there was a problem: how to cook them so they'd be tender.

Pork loin chops are inherently tough if you pan-fry them like regular bone-in chops. I've found in order to cook these lean cuts, they need to be cooked slowly at a low temperature for a longer period of time. So with nothing else to do that day other than weed my garden, I browned the chops in the skillet then transfered them to a roasting dish, mixed a couple of packages of gravy mix together with some water and some cream of mushroom soup, and the result was some delicious and very tender chops. Fork tender, I'd say. No knife needed.

The gravy mixes thicken as the pork chops bake, creating an excellent gravy to spoon over the tops of the chops, not to mention gravy for mashed potatoes, an excellent side dish to serve with the chops. The garlic along with the onions make this gravy irresistible, and you'll probably have some left over, so freeze it and use it to flavor beef stew or your next pork roast.

 

Baked Pork Chops

4 boneless pork loin chops, about 1-inch thick

Seasoning salt

Garlic powder

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, divided

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 cups water

1 package McCormick's dry pork gravy mix

1 package brown gravy mix

1 (10-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup

1 (8-ounce) container fresh mushrooms

1 teaspoon Italian dressing

Season both sides of pork chops with seasoning salt, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a large frying pan. On medium to medium-high heat, brown the chops on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray. Slice the onion, and layer slices on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the onion with the chopped garlic. Place the browned chops in a single layer over the onion and garlic without overlapping the chops.

In a separate mixing bowl, mix together the water, dry gravy mixes and the cream of mushroom soup, and pour over pork chops.

Melt the last 1/4 cup of butter in the frying pan. Thinly slice the mushrooms, season them with salt and pepper and a splash of Italian dressing, and saute till soft.

Put a pile of the mushrooms on the top of each pork chop. Bake, covered, at 300 degrees for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The gravy thickens up on its own. Spoon extra gravy over the tops of the chops before serving. Delicious served with mashed potatoes.

 

STORING GARLIC

When making the pork chops in today's column, I reached for the fresh garlic in my kitchen window only to find out that it had gone bad. How to tell?

Spoiled garlic forms brown spots on the cloves and turns from the usual white to a more yellow or brown color, and green shoots grow out of the center of the cloves. It won't hurt to eat garlic that's gone bad; it just tastes really bitter compared to the delicious flavor fresh garlic offers.

I'm not surprised my garlic had gone bad — I store it on my windowsill out of convenience. But that's the worst place to store garlic, according to eatwell101.com.

Your best bet is to leave the garlic heads in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight or in the fridge and use as needed. If using the refrigerator, store the garlic in a resealable plastic bag and put it in the crisper to avoid unwanted smells.

Another idea that adds a decorative element to your kitchen is to toss whole unpeeled heads of garlic in a wire basket hanging in a corner of your kitchen or pantry, out of direct sunlight, and they will keep really well.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or annebraly.com.

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Anne Braly
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