Spicy pork chops just right for Mardi Gras

With Mardi Gras fast approaching, I thought it might be fun to salute New Orleans’ cuisine by finding a new use for the city’s unique Creole spice mix.

 

“Creole” is the term used to describe something of mixed European and African descent, like New Orleans itself. Creole spice mix typically includes several different types of ground pepper, plus garlic, onion powder and dried herbs. Since 1889, the pre-eminent brand has been Zatarain’s, which describes its spice mix as “the delicious alternative to salt and pepper.”

Given that one of the mix’s main ingredients is salt, I’ve always wondered why cooks didn’t add it to recipes earlier in the process. Why not use it at the very beginning as a dry rub, giving the salt time to work its magic?

Several hours before cooking, I rubbed my own Creole seasoning mix onto some pork chops and seared them. Sure enough, the spice mix made a huge difference.

You’ll find Creole spice mix at supermarkets, but I invite you to whip up a batch at home. The extra will keep in the cupboard for at least six months, allowing any day to taste like Mardi Gras.

SPICY PORK CHOPS IN CREOLE MUSTARD SAUCE

Start to finish: 50 minutes (20 active)

Servings: 4

4 teaspoons Creole Spice Mix (recipe below) or store-bought creole spice mix, divided

Four 1¼- to 1½-inch thick bone-in pork chops (about 10 to 12 ounces each)

¼ cup vegetable oil, divided

1 cup thinly sliced onion

¾ cup thinly sliced red bell pepper

¾ cup thinly sliced green bell pepper

¹/³ cup thinly sliced celery

1 cup medium chopped cherry or plum tomatoes

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons Creole (whole grain) mustard

Kosher salt and black pepper

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the spice mix all over each chop, coating it well. Marinate the chops, covered, for 1 to 6 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pat the chops dry. In a large skillet, heat half the oil over medium-high . Reduce the heat to medium, add two chops, cook them until nicely seared, about 1½ minutes a side, and transfer them to a rimmed sheet pan. (Reduce heat if the spice mix starts to color too much.) Add the remaining chops and sear them, transferring them to the sheet pan. Bake the chops in the oven until they reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Add the remaining oil and the onions to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and celery and cook, covered, stirring occasionally until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until the tomato is softened, about 4 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring 1 minute.

Add the chicken broth, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer it for 2 minutes. Stir in the mustard and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the chops and any juices from the plate to the skillet and cook gently, turning the chops until they are warmed, about 1 minute. Transfer chops to plates and top each one with a mound of the pepper mixture.

CREOLE SPICE MIX

Makes 3 tablespoons

2 teaspoons hot paprika

1½ teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¾ teaspoon onion powder

¾ teaspoon cayenne

¾ teaspoon oregano

¾ teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir well.

 

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