Pork Medallions with Pan Gravy
This is the perfect cold-weather comfort food. Its delicious and re-heats beautifully because of its abundant pan sauce. This is one recipe I encourage all of my students to try because it offers an opportunity to practice so many essential techniques in one dish. I originally wrote this without ingredient amounts and with a great deal of descriptive detail to encourage students to use their own judgment when cooking. I’ve left in the detailed descriptions, which make this a great recipe for the uninitiated.
2 pounds pork loin roast, pork chops, or pork tenderloin, trimmed of any bone, fat or gristle and cut into medallions that are 2-3 bites each (about 2”). Why not single bite-sized? I find that these larger medallions turn out juicier and more tender than a bite-sized piece.
Brine (optional but recommended)
8 cups water
1/3 cup kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
1 stalk celery, finely minced or brunoised
1 small carrot, finely minced or brunoised
1 shallot or small onion, finely minced or brunoised
To cook meat
1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
Grapeseed oil for cooking
1 can chicken broth
¼ cup whole milk, 2 tablespoons half-and half or 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or sage leaves
Serving suggestion: spaetzle, wide egg noodles, roasted fork-mashed potatoes, or rice
Brine the Pork
- Place pork medallions in brine solution for 20 minutes to 224? hours.
Cook the Pork
- Put some oil (just enough to coat the bottom) in a skillet or braiser and turn on to medium-high heat.
- Put the flour in a bowl. When the oil is shimmering and very fluid (but before the pan starts smoking), one-by-one quickly dredge the medallions in the flour and place them in the pan. Do not do this step ahead of time or the moisture from the meat will be absorbed by the flour and will compromise the golden crust you’re trying to achieve. Be sure they’re not touching each other. You will likely need to do this in at least two batches. While you’re cooking, watch your fond development. If the crusty stuff on the bottom of the pan starts to burn, turn down your heat. The fond is going to impart most of the meaty flavor to the pan gravy. If you burn some, scrape it out. You can develop enough in the next batch to get you though.
- After the medallions have been in the pan for 60-90 seconds, using your tongs, gently lift up a corner of a medallion. If it has a golden (not brown, we’re not searing here), crusty appearance, start turning your medallions (start with the first pieces you put in. A good way to remember is to put the pieces in the pan in a clockwise spiral pattern, starting at 12 o’clock). If the medallion is stuck to the bottom of the pan, it probably needs more time. Once that crust has formed, it will let go of the pan.
- Press on the center of a medallion with your fingertip (or tongs). It should still feel pretty doughy. You may even be able to see an indentation left. Keep checking the medallions for doneness in this way. When the center holds up to pressure, it is done. You’re not looking for firmness, just a lack of “give.” This is a skill developed by experience, so whenever you’re cooking meat, start pressing on it to feel how it changes as it cooks. When you think they’re done, cut one open (because you’re still working on the touch-test skill). Ideal doneness actually slightly undercooked in the center (they’ll continue to cook off the heat, and then will cook again when you recombine them with the gravy, so this prevents over-doneness). Pork at medium won’t kill you—juicy and flavorful .
- Remove medallions to a bowl (preferably ceramic, to maintain heat) and cover (a dinner or salad plate works great for this).
- Turn the heat down to medium. Add a bit more fat to the pan- enough to really coat the bottom of the pan again. I like to use butter at this point, but oil is fine too. Add your mirepoix. Sauté for 30-60 seconds to soften but be careful not to burn (because they’re tiny bits, they’re more likely to burn).
- Add 2T of the dredging flour to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Stir, preferably with a whisk. The oil will absorb the flour and the veggies will get all clumped together and by now you’ll be thinking, “Gack! I’ve ruined it.” Relax.
- Pour your broth into a microwave safe measuring cup and heat until hot in microwave.
- When the flour mixture starts to turn beige (30-60 seconds), pay attention to the change in aroma. It’ll take on a sort of nutty smell. Its subtle. See if you can pick up on it. That’s the classic indicator of completeness for a roux.
- Add about 1 cup of broth (pref. pork, chicken or vegetable)whisking constantly. This is probably about one can. If you feel you need more, just add a bit of water- you should have enough flavor. Whisk this mixture until well combined. Now watch. In a minute it’ll start to thicken like magic. Stir intermittently. It should get pretty thick. If it doesn’t just add a bit more flour directly (This may make the gravy taste a bit of flour, but you can live with it).
- Add the dairy. This will lend a creaminess to the gravy and also thin it to your desired consistency. Start testing for seasoning, adding salt & pepper as needed.
- Add the pork, with the accumulated juices at the bottom of the bowl, back to the pan. Stir to distribute. Serve over spaetzle, potatoes, egg noodles or whatever you want to absorb that fantastic pan gravy. Leftovers freeze and reheat perfectly (Freeze separate from your noodles or whatever).
Substitute chicken for the pork. Try serving over leftover crepes or waffles.
Add mushrooms to the pan gravy by sautéing them to doneness before adding the mirepoix.