Pork Chops in a Creamy Dijon Tarragon Sauce, or, what makes Mommy the Best Cook Ever!

After purchasing our house 9 year ago, one of the first things I did was to plant a few herbs.  The garlic chives I’ve been carrying around for the previous 10 or 12 years had finally found a home.  They reseed every year, their clump getting a little bit thicker with each passing year.  Yes, I’m proud to say that I have managed to keep something alive for over 20 years!  However, this recipe does not include the chives, but, rather, one of the other herbs I planted soon after moving in: tarragon.  I had tried to grow it in pots, but never had success.  However, somehow, this one stayed alive for about 5 years.  It’d probably still be alive today if the chickens hadn’t stripped it of all it’s beautiful, sweet smelling leaves, thus killing it.

There were only one or two dishes I had in mind for the tarragon.  Chris informed me he didn’t like tarragon at all, so, I used it only to make Tarragon Chicken Salad with Cranberries & Pecans for myself.  Yum.

A few years passed.

I tried a recipe for pan-seared chicken breasts with a dijon tarragon sauce, quickly made from the pan “drippings”.  Not that you really have drippings from boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but, the “fond”.  Interestingly enough, in this combination the tarragon flavor did not overpower, rather, it helped add a little grassy finish to the otherwise delicious dijon sauce.

I made this for dinner, served it, and they both asked for more gravy, please.  I informed Chris it had tarragon in it….hmmm, he replied, and ate another bite.  Cayleigh has declared it the best meal EVER, and Mommy is the Best Cook Ever! whenever I make it! She then proceeds to clean her plate of every drop of sauce on her plate, then asks if she can get more sauce from the pan (yes, this happens every time I make this).  It’s the kind of unspoken flattery that makes a cook happy.

It is rich, so doesn’t get served often.  But, it is also quick and easy to make, and good to make for company.  The key tool to great pan gravy/sauce is to use a good, heavy skillet such as a heavy stainless steel skillet, or even a cast iron pan, although the pan gravy will come out a little darker, but will taste just as good.  These pans allow for good browning, which is where the flavor is.  I wish my camera was working when I made this last night.  I like to cook the onion (or shallot or leeks or red onion) until it is caramelized a dark, dark brown.  When you add the stock and the cream, the little browned onion bits float on top, it reminds me of what an onion dip should look like, if I were making an onion dip.  As the sauce is reduced, the onions will become better  dispersed throughout the sauce (because they absorb some of the liquid).  Either chicken or pork cutlets can be used.  When using chicken, pound them to about 1/2 inch thickness for quicker cooking.

This is also good without the tarragon, you will find a lot of recipes online for dijon sauce; the tarragon just makes it better.

The sides should be light: a salad, a steamed green vegetable, and starch to soak it up.  Actually, last night we ate this with just some supersweet Avoyelles Parish sweet potatoes, baked till caramelized a little, and topped with a little butter.  Hard to go wrong with pork and sweet potatoes

Pork Chops or Chicken Cutlets, Seared

  • 3 to 6 pork or chicken cutlets, about 1/2-inch thickness (pound with mallet, if needed)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter

If pork or chicken is too thick, place meat on cutting board, cover with wax paper (to prevent meat juice going all over your kitchen), and pound to desired thickness with a kitchen mallet.  Dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper.  When pan is hot, place cutlets in skillet, do not crowd.  Cook in batches, if needed.  Sear meat till lightly browned, and turn over  and sear the other side.  Remove meat to plate, and repeat with remaining meat.  Add more oil and/or butter, if necessary.  Remove meat to plate.  Prepare to make the gravy.

Tarragon Dijon Sauce

  • 1/4 cup onion of your choice, minced
  • (butter or olive oil, if needed- I usually add about a teaspoon of butter)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, minced fine or 1 teaspoon dry tarragon, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Saute onion, adding more butter/olive oil, if needed.  The onion should be sauteed on low heat because there will be lots of browned bits on the bottom of the pan that you don’t want to scorch or burn.  The browned meat bits are what give the pan gravy all its’ flavor.  I usually cook the onion, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are pretty brown.  Sprinkle the tarragon on, add the dijon, and add the chicken stock and cream.  Stir to mix well. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to scrap up all the brown bits.  The gravy will darken as the browned bits are incorporated in, but should still be a light cream color.  Reduce a little till thick, add a little more cream if it’s too salty, and reduce till coats the spoon.

If you’re serving more than 4 people, you may want to double the gravy recipe.  This is what I usually make for 3 with no leftovers!  I’ve had to scale it down from the original recipe so that there would be no leftovers.  Too rich!  Plus, it’s always nice to be able to prepare this for a special occasion and it actually feels like a special treat!