Food Network Favorites: Root Beer-Glazed Pork Chops with Bourbon-Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Caramelized Onions
Another selection from the Emeril Lagasse chapter in Food Network Favorites. This one suffers from too much of a good thing -- too many sweet elements, and not enough contrast.
You've got a sweet root beer glaze for the pork chops, the sweetness of caramelized onions, and sweet potatoes, which are naturally sweet (duh) but also enhanced in this recipe with brown sugar and molasses. It's all too much. I think the creole seasoning on the pork chops is supposed to be the counterpoint to all the sugary stuff, but it's not enough. After a while all the elements of this dish blend together into an undistinguishable mish-mash of intense caramel, brown sugar, and root beer flavors.
The pork chops themselves are quite tasty, and I'm always a sucker for caramelized onions. What would vastly improve this dish, I think, is to skip the sweet potatoes and serve the chops, onions, and glaze on a bed of good old mashed russet potatoes. That way the balance between sweet and savory would be better, and the palate wouldn't grow so fatigued. I've given the recipe as it appears in the book, but I strongly recommend trying regular mashed potatoes in place of the sweet potatoes.
I've also reduced the cooking time for the chops; Emeril's recipe says to check the temperature after 10 to 15 minutes, but if your chops aren't super-thick, that's too long. Start checking after 5 minutes in the oven, and don't let the internal temperature get higher than 150 degrees, or the meat will be dry.
Many markets sell double-cut or thick-cut bone-in pork chops. If you can't find them at the grocery store, try a specialty butcher. I don't recommend using regular chops, as they will cook too quickly. A mandoline or vegetable slicer makes short work of the onions. I've modified the ingredients list slightly to allow for fewer onions, since the original 2 pounds makes a ton. One or one and a half pounds should make plenty of caramelized onions for 4 servings.
Another ingredients note; Emeril's restaurant roots show up here, as he calls for "2 cups reduced veal stock." Uh, sure thing, Emeril. Most home kitchens don't have this product lying around. Some specialty markets carry veal stock, either in bottles or in the freezer case. But I have no idea how much you're supposed to reduce it, since Emeril doesn't give any hints. Reduce regular-strength broth by 50%? Or more? No way to know, unfortunately. If you can find veal stock at your market, I recommend buying 4 cups and reducing by half, then proceeding with the glaze recipe. If veal stock is unavailable, use beef stock. The glaze will be less thick, since beef stock doesn't have the same gelatin content as veal stock, but it still works okay.
I've given a link for a recipe to prepare Emeril's Essence, the seasoning for the chops. You can also purchase it at the market. Make sure you get the original Creole variety
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: About 60 to 90 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
4 to 8 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 to 2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Pork Chops & Glaze
2 cups root beer
2 cups reduced veal stock OR beef stock
4 16-oz. double-cut bone-in pork chops
4 tsp Emeril's Essence
4 tsp olive oil
Parsley leaves, for garnish
Bourbon-Mashed Sweet Potatoes
1 3/4 to 2 pounds sweet potatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp kosher salt
For the onions: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
For the glaze: Combine the root beer and stock in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to about 1 cup of thick syrup, 50 minutes to an hour. Remove from the heat.
For the pork chops: Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Season each chop on both sides with 1 tsp of the Essence. Grill for 3 minutes. Turn 1/4 turn to make a cross-hatch pattern, and cook an additional 2 minutes. Turn chops over and cook on the second side for 5 minutes. Transfer chops to a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil on each chop, and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads 150 degrees, about 5 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness. Set chops aside until ready to serve.
For the sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until tender and starting to ooze syrup, about 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on their size. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Cut a slit down the center of each potato and scrape the flesh away from the skin, into a large mixing bowl. Discard the skins. Add the cream, bourbon, brown sugar, molasses, and salt and beat on high speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Cover to keep warm, or gently reheat before serving.
To serve: Place a large scoop of sweet potatoes on each of 4 plates. Angle the pork chop up against the side of the mashed potatoes, with the grill marks facing up. Place a large spoonful of caramelized onions on top of the chops, then drizzle the root beer glaze over the top. Sprinkle with parsley leaves, and serve.