Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pork Cutlets à la Russe

     Côtelettes de Porc à la Russe! 
     Many French chefs use the words "a la" in a recipe title, which loosely translates as "in the style of."   Côtelettes de Porc à la Russe is the French name for today's recipe.  The French title is important to remember, because this recipe is a French interpretation of a Russian cuisine item.
     From the late 1800's through the present age, French chefs sometimes created recipes that represented another culture's cuisine.  Often a bit of French culinary bias is applied when creating an interpretive recipe that represents the food of another culture, in order to downplay food that is not truly French.  In other words, to a steadfast French chef, only French food is number one and when making a foreign culture food item, the logical thing to do is make the item not look as good as French food.
     When making a foreign food item, some French chefs only the bare essential ingredients to make the recipe with no additional ingredients that add pizzaz, even if the additional ingredients are traditionally part of the foreign recipe.  Many times the traditional cooking methods are simplified too, so the full essence of the foreign culture's food item cannot be experienced.  Either way, downplaying foreign food is part of defending the stature of French food.
     Nobody ever said that a French chef cannot take advantage of their own home field advantage, in order to make their own cultural cuisine look best!  The restaurant business is highly competitive, so if a chef is running a French restaurant, it makes sense to place French cuisine high on a pedestal!  A French chef that makes Spanish food, German food or Italian food look sensational, would only be shooting himself in the foot in the long run if the chef operates a French restaurant.

      Fortunately, there are many French chefs that make every interpretive recipe the way it should be, with no home turf bias.  Today's French interpretation of a Russian style pork cutlet recipe is a good example.
     I cannot remember where I learned this recipe, but it might have been from an old classic French cookbook that was originally published in the late 1800's or early 1900's.  Back in those days, many traditional Russian food items were en vogue.  For example, during that period in time, the original Befstroganov recipe was developed to its fullest potential in fine dining restaurants as an interpretive recipe.  
     Russia is a very large country and Russia certainly is culturally diverse.  Pork Chop recipes from southwestern Russia often make use of traditional Hungarian ingredients.  Northwestern Russia has some Scandinavian, Polish and Prussian cooking influences.  Eastern Russian cuisine can be very much like northern Chinese food.
     Radishes, horseradish, beets, potatoes and turnips are winter root cellar vegetables.  The winter is long and very cold in Russia, so one can easily imagine why traditional Russian cuisine features so many good root vegetable recipes.  When springtime rolls around, the last of the winter root vegetables are combined with fresh green vegetables.
     Green Beans often are a featured ingredient in Russian recipes, instead of being served on their own as a vegetable side dish.  Green Beans in a sauce?  Sure!  This is Russian style cuisine!  Green Beans add a very rich garden vegetable flavor to a crème fraîche sauce and horseradish compliments this flavor.  For some odd reason, this flavor combination causes the tummy to growl for more food.  Pork Cutlets à la Russe will actually increase a guest's appetite, especially on a chilly day, so be sure to serve a hearty portion of this French café style entrée!

     Pork Cutlets à la Russe:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Select 3 boneless pork loin chops that weigh about 3 ounces apiece.
     Trim off the excess fat, but leave a very thin edge of fat cap on each cutlet.
     Place the pork chop cutlets on a cutting board and pound them thin with a meat mallet.
     Lightly dredge the thin pork cutlets in flour that is seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add the floured pork cutlets.
     Sauté the pork cutlets on both side till they are lightly browned.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the pork cutlets on a platter and set them aside.
     Drain the grease out of the pan.
     Step 4:  Place the pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 thin sliced green onion.
     Briefly sauté till the green onion wilts.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 cup of beef stock.
     Add 3/4 cup of rich chicken stock.
     Add 2/3 cup of fresh green beans that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour with 3 tablespoons of water to make a slurry.
     Add just enough of the slurry to the sauce while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a medium thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.  (Save any extra slurry for another recipe.  The use of slurry is common in Russian cooking.)
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of ground horseradish.
     Add 3 tablespoons of sour cream.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Stir the sauce with a whisk till it is blended.
     Step 8:  Return the sautéed pork cutlets to the sauce.
     Gently simmer till the green beans are tender and the pork cutlets are reheated.
     *The finished sauce should be medium consistency that can easily coat a spoon.  Add a splash of chicken stock if the sauce is too thick.  
     Overlap the pork cutlets on the front half of a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the sauce and green beans over the cutlets.
     Serve with buttered rustic root cellar vegetables.  (Roasted sweet potato and roasted red beet are a nice choice!)
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig and lemon slices.

     The flavor of this Russian style pork cutlet entrée is exceptionally nice!

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