Braised Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta

I’m beginning to love brussel sprouts more and more. I’ve decided they’re kind of like that sour puss uncle everybody’s got and it’s really all about how you handle them to get what you want. If you want delicious, these deliver. And so easy.

Brussel sprouts, shallots, pancetta, and a little bit of dijon mustard and voila. You’ve got a delicious side dish.

 

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Here’s a picture of my pancetta, because why not? Usually, I would have cooked this in my cast iron, (which begs the question, why do I only have ONE?? I’ll be rectifying that very soon.) but it was busy cooking up my pan gravy delciousness. But any old pan will do the trick. So, I browned my pancetta, removed them from the pan but left the grease and threw some thinly sliced shallots with a dash of salt in to cook.

 

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After they started looking like this ^^^, I added my dijon mustard and a little chicken stock. (I made my own for my pan gravy that I mentioned earlier and reserved about a half cup for this. There’s an earlier post that I have about making your own stock and again, if you aren’t doing this already, do it now. Seafood Stock. Or chicken. or beef. Just substitute the protein of your choice.) I whisked this together until my mustard was totally incorporated and then added another half cup of water. Then I folded in my brussel sprouts. I cut my heat down to med low, and let them cook til most of the liquid had dissolved. I added back in my pancetta, and stirred until all the liquid was dissolved. I had a little balsamic vinegar reduction that I keep by the stove and I threw a little  on top of this but that’s just me. Stir, then serve.

Braised Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta

Ingredients:

1 1lb bag of brussel sprouts, sliced thinly

1 5 oz pkg pancetta, diced

1 shallot, sliced thin

1 tbs dijon mustard

1/2 c  chicken stock

1/2 c water

(optional: lightly toss in balsamic vinegar reduction just before serving)

 

Directions:

Heat pan to med high heat. Cook pancetta. Remove from pan, but leave the grease. Add shallot. Once they begin to brown, add mustard and a little salt. Add chicken stock and whick till fully incorporated. Add water. Add brussel sprouts and cut heat down to med low. Stir frequently. Once liquid is almost totally dissolved, add pancetta. Continue to stir and cook until liquid is gone. Toss in balsamic vinegar reduction and serve.

 

Crispy Roasted Chicken with Pan Gravy

Ok, let me start with a disclaimer- if you are looking for a blog with healthy, gluten free or vegan dishes, LEAVE NOW. I am SO not the blog for you. I believe food should be decadent and indulgent. Julia Child said it best:

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”                   or 

“Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

She was a woman after my own heart. And my idol. Or Paula Deen, without the racism. (We share a love of butter and southern food, but the similarities end there.) This recipe is nothing short of decadent and it’s worth every. single. bite.

Let’s start with making my chicken stock. I threw what was left of a rotisserie chicken (the bones with a little fat and skin hanging on into a pot with some garlic, celery and carrots and white wine and water. Add in some fresh herbs (I had thyme, rosemary and some parsley.) A little salt and pepper. And I let it boil, then simmer and reduce. Seafood Stock (The full recipe. Substitute for chicken. In case you missed the link the last 2 times I posted it.) I continued to let this reduce on down way past where I would have for just plain chicken stock. Strain through a seive and set aside for later.  I trimmed any excess skin off my chicken thighs and set aside for later. Oh, yes. It’s like that. So, there’s probably chefs that would be horrified at my method of cooking these chicken thighs, but it comes out perfectly every time so whatever. I heated up my cast iron skillet with a little olive oil to med high heat. Once it was good and hot, I placed my chicken thighs in it, skin side down. I only used a little salt and pepper for seasoning. Cook for about 7 or 8 minutes, moving around and repositioning (but always leaving the skin side down, until they are nice and brown and the fat has begun to render.) I turned them over, let them cook for a minute or two then transferred to my roasting pain. I added some carrots that had been halved and some sliced yellow onion. I placed in my oven at 450 for about 30 minutes.

 

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This is what they looked like going in. I set aside my cast iron skillet that I had browned the chicken in for later. After 30 minutes, I checked my chicken and as it was very close, I lifted my rack with my chicken out of my pan and scraped all that goodness into my cast iron skillet. There were delicious bit of caramelized onion too. Be still my heart. I put my rack back in my pan, let it cook 5 more minutes, then removed it from heat and let it rest. While it was resting, I turned up my heat on my skillet to med high heat and added the trimmed chicken skin. Once it was brown and crispy, I removed it and cut my heat down to med. I took about half the carrots and onions that I’d roasted with my chicken, and diced them up. To my skillet, I added some minced shallot, and then once it began to turn translucent, some garlic, and then my diced carrots and onions. After they’d cooked a couple of minutes, I added some white wine. What wine, you ask?

 

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This wine. About 3/4 cup. I let it reduce to almost no liquid, then added about 1/2 cup of water and again, let it reduce. Then I added my chicken stock and cut my heat down to low and let it simmer. I chopped up my beautiful crispy chicken skins and threw them in too. Once it reached my desired consistency, I removed it from the heat and served it on top of my chicken and a big, beautiful pile of creamed potatoes. Unbelievable. My husband’s exact words were “incredible”, in fact.

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Crispy Roasted Chicken with Pan Gravy

Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs, or 2 pkgs

2 carrots, peeled and halved

1 small yellow onion, sliced

3/4 c white wine

3/4 c chicken stock

1 shallot, finely diced

 2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 c water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450. Wash chicken thighs, remove any excess pieces of skin and set aside. Pat the thighs dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat skillet to med high with a little olive oil. Add chicken, skin side down. Cook for 8 – 10 minutes, moving around a bit to brown evenly. Once nice and golden, turn them over, cook 2 minutes then transfer to a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Add carrots and onions. Roast for 30 minutes. Heat same skillet back to med high heat, add chicken skin that you’d set aside earlier and let it get good and crispy. Remove and chop. Remove chicken on rack from pan, set aside. Scrape pan drippings into skillet. Remove about half of the onion and carrots and dice. Put chicken back in for another 5 minutes or so, or until internal temp reaches 165 degrees with a meat thermometer. Add shallots, garlic, and carrots and onions to skillet. Stir frequently. Add in white wine, cut heat down to med. Let reduce until almost all the liquid is gone. Add water. Again, reduce until liquid is gone. Stir in chicken stock and once reduced to desired consistency, remove from heat. Serve over chicken and creamed potatoes. My recipe for my tried and true creamed potatoes is here: Perfect Creamed Potatoes

 

 

Perfect Creamed Potatoes

I don’t even have a good picture of these potatoes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth reading. These potatoes are tried and true- creamy, rich and silky smooth. You can add in some garlic, cooked bacon that’s been diced, a little sour cream, chives, shredded cheese, etc. Whatever you want. But this is the perfect base. Every time. (Helpful hint: when mixing potato mixture, throw a dish towel on top of the pot and over the mixer. This catches any little pieces that want to go flying out when you turn the mixer on.)

Ingredients:

5 or 6 potatoes, peeled and diced into thick chucks

6 tbs butter

3/4 c heavy whipping cream

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Put peeled and diced potatoes in large pot. Cover with water. Boil 12- 15 minutes until tender. Drain. Add butter. Add heavy cream. Add salt and pepper. Using hand mixer, beat on low to med speed until smooth and all lumps are gone. Serve immediately.

Red Grouper with Crawfish Au Gratin Sauce

Red Grouper with Crawfish Au Gratin Sauce… which really means, a rich and creamy white wine sauce.

I had all those amazing leftover crawfish from Tuesday and decided to make a little cream sauce out of the tails to go over some fresh fish. I was originally going to use Red Snapper, but the guy at the seafood market talked me into the red grouper filets, and they did not disappoint.

The basic recipe I used for the cream sauce is very similar to the one I use for my sauteed crab claws. It’s to die for. Seriously. You’ll want to drink this stuff. (But don’t. It would probably kill you. You’d definitely feel your arteries starting to clog immediately.) Try to resist. It’s a very easy sauce to make and I always make bread to go with it, because you’re gonna be looking for other stuff to dip in it, trust me.

I started with a little olive oil in my pan on med high heat, and added one good sized minced shallot. Once it started to get fragrant, I added a little minced garlic, then some diced sun dried tomatoes.

 

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Minced shallot, diced sun dried tomatoes, and chopped fresh parsley

Once these are nice and fragrant, I add about 3/4 cup of white wine. Whatever I happen to be drinking.  Any white wine. (Except for Moscato or Reisling. If you’re drinking those, we need to talk. Email me. It’s time for an intervention.) I’m partial to wines from Oregon or California but that’s me.

 

 

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My choice for this recipe

Use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan as it deglazes. Add a little chicken stock base. I use the Roasted Chicken “Better than Bouillon” base because it is amazing. About a tbs. Cut your heat down. Let this simmer and reduce by about half. Add a little crushed red pepper, dried thyme, dried basil, and chopped fresh parsley. Now for the butter. Do yourselves a favor people, and buy good quality butter. It’s worth it. I like fresh farm butter but whatever you can find, just make sure it’s unsalted. This dish will be plenty salty without adding any salt to it.

Cut your heat down to low. Add your cold butter in small squares and allow to melt into sauce, without stirring. Every now and then, I give the pan a shake but that’s it. Next add the cream. Then the fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Because my crawfish were already cooked, I added them last. I just wanted them to warm up, not cook any more.

Serve this sauce over your pan seared fish. I plated this on a little bed of arugula that I had lightly tossed in a vinaigrette, and served it with some roasted asparagus and potatoes. Side note on the potatoes- I used my leftover boiled fingerling potatoes from my crawfish boil and put them on a foil lined cookie sheet. I smashed them and put a little melted butter with garlic on top and baked them at 425 for about 15 minutes. Easy and a good way to reinvent my potatoes from the other night.

 

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Before popping them in the oven…

 

Oh, and I grated a little fresh parm on top of them too because, why not?

Give this sauce a try. Then try it with blue crab claws. The recipe is the same, just substitute the crab claws for the crawfish tails. Sometimes with the crab claws, when it’s done, I add some fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top and pop the pan in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese and the sauce will thicken just a bit. Don’t forget the bread. And when you’re tempted to drink the sauce, drink the rest of your wine instead. That’s how I do it.

 

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The sauce just after it’s been reduced while incorporating the butter

 

Red Grouper with Crawfish Au Gratin Sauce

Ingredients:

1 tbs olive oil

2 large fresh fish filets, such as snapper or grouper, cut into serving size pieces

1 lb crawfish tails, cooked

1 minced shallot

2 minced garlic cloves

2 tbs diced sun dried tomatoes

3/4  c  white wine

1 tbs chicken stock base

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried thyme

 a pinch of crushed red pepper, to your taste

1 tbs fresh parsley, roughly chopped

8 oz unsalted butter, cut into squares

2 oz unsalted butter, for the fish

1 c  heavy cream

4 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat olive oil in heavy sauce pan over med high heat. Add minced shallot. Cook until it becomes fragrant, a couple of minutes. Add garlic. Stir. After a minute, add sun dried tomatoes. Stir. Cook 2 minutes. When it’s starting to brown, add wine and cut heat down to med low. Scrape the bottom of the pan while stirring. Add the chicken base and the seasoning. Bring sauce to a simmer and reduce. Allow sauce to simmer until reduced by about half. Slowly, add the 8 oz of butter, one pat at a time, without stirring. Allow to melt before adding another pat. Shake the pan a little to incorporate. Once butter is fully incorporated add the cream. Stir. Simmer. Add parmesan cheese. After the cheese is fully incorporated, add crawfish and allow sauce to heat through, without coming to a simmer.

While sauce is simmering, heat another pan to med high heat. Pat dry fish filets and season on both sides with a blackening or cajun seasoning of your choice. Add 2 oz of butter to pan. Once butter is melted, add fish filets to pan, without crowding them. Allow them to cook approx 5- 7 minutes depending on the thickness of the filets. You want them to form a nice crust on the bottom before you turn them. Flip fish over and add another 2 oz of butter, a fresh squeezed lemon slice if you have it and fresh thyme to pan. Use the melted butter in the pan to continuously baste fish. After another 5 minutes or when fish has a nice golden crust on bottom, remove from pan and serve immediately. Once the fish has been plated, cover in crawfish au gratin sauce and top with a little bit more grated Parmesan cheese.

Louisiana Crawfish Boil (Gulf Breeze Style)

This post is slightly delayed… in that, I meant to post this on this past Ash Wednesday, as I cooked this for dinner the night of Fat Tuesday. What can I say? Busy week. Although, also somewhat productive as I finally got our taxes filed. (Insert blah face here.) So, I love seafood. Seriously. Could eat it every meal. Raw oysters are up there at the top of my list. Ok, any oyster except for fried, is at the top of my list. (Oh and do I have some good recipes for baked oysters that I’ll have to share soon.) But one thing tops even oysters for me- crawfish. You just can’t beat a good and spicy, perfectly cooked crawfish.

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After….
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Before…..

 

They’re only in season from about December to June, so I do my best to eat as many as possible during that short time frame. In fact, I’ll be doing this again in a couple of weeks for my birthday. (It’s what I’m giving myself.) So, anyway, to do this you need an outdoor propane cooker, and a really big pot. Mine is a 40 qt but they come in all sorts of sizes. You also need lots of spices and some fresh lemons and then you can get as creative as you like with what vegetables/ sides you add. 

 

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I put corn, potatoes, artichokes, conecuh sausage, and mushrooms in mine, but there are a lot of things that would work. Just add them in accordance to how long they take to cook.

 

 

Give it a try, you won’t be sorry. Here’s how to do it:

 

Louisiana Crawfish Boil (Gulf Breeze Style)

Ingredients:

Live Crawfish (approx 4-5 lbs per person), purged

1 small bag of red potatoes (I used fingerling potatoes because that’s what I had. Baby Yukon gold potatoes would be fine too.)

6 frozen corn nibblers

1 8 oz package mushrooms

1 1 lb package of smoked conecuh sausage cut into pieces

2 whole artichokes “topped”

2 onions, quartered

2 lemons

2 naval oranges

6 cloves of garlic, peeled

6 boxes of Zatarain’s Crab Boil in bag

1 tbs Zatarain’s Concentrated liquid Shrimp and Crab boil

1 tbs whole grain mustard

2 tbs whole peppercorns

2 bay leaves

fresh thyme

Feel free to add some cayenne to kick up the heat. Once again, I am keeping it kid friendly.

Directions:

Fill 40 qt pot 3/4 full of water. Turn on propane cooker on high. Add all the spices listed above to the water, including the mustard. Half the lemons and oranges, squeeze the juice in the water and throw them in the pot too. Bring to a hard boil. Add potatoes and cut heat down a little, but continue to boil. Boil for 8-10 minutes. Add the artichokes, mushrooms, sausage, and onions. Continue to boil another 10 minutes. Add live crawfish. This will bring your water temperature down. When water returns to a boil, cut the heat off, add the frozen corn and let crawfish sit for approximately 20 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove/ drain everything from the pot, throw it on a table covered in newspapers, grab some paper towels and a cold beer (I like to dip my tails in Louisiana hot sauce too, and a little dijon mustard for my sausage so I bring that too.) and enjoy!!

 

Scrambled Eggs and Chorizo

Yesterday, we celebrated Mardi Gras Pensacola style. It was one of those perfect days that are rare and wonderful- the weather was perfect, sunny and low 70’s, the kids had a great time, we were hanging out with friends drinking bloody Mary’s with all the fixin’s and beers from the stands on the sidewalks. After the 4 hour long grand parade, we left happy, a little bit buzzed, and loaded down with beads, moon pies, stuffed animals and cups.

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That handsome guy on the far right is my husband, by the way. Am I lucky or what? Anyway, so after all that Mardi Gras fun and debauchery yesterday, I knew as soon as I opened my eyes this morning that I wanted something delicious and hearty for breakfast.

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A picture of said debauchery…

There are few things I love more than salsa/ or Louisiana hot sauce on scrambled eggs. My children, maybe, but not much else. This breakfast goes great with both. The potatoes get nice and crispy, and the chorizo is nice with the eggs and cheese. I kept this pretty mild, but I would have cranked up the spice a little if my kids weren’t eating it too. I removed the chorizo from the casings and browned it in my cast iron pan, then set it aside leaving the small amount of grease in the pan to brown my potatoes and shallots in. For my potatoes, I had a half bag of baby Yukon gold potatoes that I’d been needing to use. Because baby potatoes are difficult to peel, I boiled them for about 12 minutes and then put them in an ice water bath. This makes the peel just slide right off. Then I diced them up. But you can use whatever kind of potatoes you want, just allow for extra time to cook them.

 

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There’s tons of things you could add to these. Next time I think I’ll had some diced peppers too. Fresh tomatoes would be nice as well. A little jalapeno to kick up the heat a bit. Whatever floats your boat. These were delicious. Just what the doctor ordered after a day of indulging.

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Scrambled Eggs and Chorizo

1 lb chorizo sausage

approximately half of 1.5 lb bag of baby Yukon gold potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced

1 shallot, sliced thin

8 eggs, beaten

4 oz manchego cheese, grated

tsp chives

1 clove of garlic, minced

a pinch of cumin

salt and pepper to taste

cayenne pepper, to your own liking

Directions:

Heat non stick pan on med high heat. (I prefer cast iron, but whatever you have.) Brown chorizo in pan, remove and set aside. Leave grease in pan. Add a little more oil, if necessary. Add shallot, garlic and potatoes to pan. Don’t stir too much, as you want them to get crispy and brown. Once they are almost brown enough, add eggs and cumin, chives and cayenne pepper, and 2 oz of the cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir well, as the eggs scramble. Add the chorizo back in, mix well. Top with remaining cheese. Turn off heat. As the mixture sits in the pan, it will continue to crisp, so once it’s to your liking, remove it from the pan entirely. Serve with salsa and or Louisiana hot sauce.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

brussels

Brussels sprouts. I remember my mom serving them steamed with a little butter as a child, and while they weren’t terrible, they definitely weren’t good. But at Mama’s house, that doesn’t matter. You ate what was on your plate or you didn’t leave the table. So fast forward 2o years and that’s how long it would be before I ate another one. These definitely aren’t your mother’s Brussels sprouts.

Disclaimer* My mother is a wonderful cook. The fact that Brussels sprouts just don’t taste good steamed, is in no way a reflection of her. I feel pretty sure that anyone whose Mom served them sprouts that way is agreeing with me at this very moment.

 

Bacon. Or Bacon’s favorite cousin, Pancetta. I’m partial to pancetta, but you can use whatever you’ve got. This recipe is so easy and so good. Something magical happens to Brussels sprouts when you roast them. The natural bitterness melts away and the outer leaves crisp up and you really don’t have to do anything to them. Sometimes when I make this dish, I do a quick balsamic vinegar reduction that I drizzle on top, but I think my favorite way is like this. This is a great week night quick and easy side dish that will become a staple at your house, like it has mine.

 

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

1 lb bag fresh Brussels sprouts

1 tbs olive oil

5 oz pancetta, diced

salt and pepper to taste

fresh grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. Move rack to upper most position. Wash sprouts, then cut off the hard stems on the bottom. Cut into halves or quarters. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix with pancetta. Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet or I used a cast iron. Bake about 10 minutes, when sprouts begin to brown. Gently turn them over, bake another 10 minutes or until they are brown and crispy. Remove from oven and serve, with freshly grated parmesan cheese on top.

Seafood Stock

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If you aren’t making your own stock yet, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life, I really don’t. So simple. And delicious. So go do it next time. You won’t regret it, I promise.

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Seafood Stock

2 carrots, unpeeled and roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped including the leaves and ends

1 tbs olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 cup dry white wine

6 cups of water

1 tbs tomato paste

1 bay leaf, dried

1 tbs thyme, roughly chopped, stem and all

1 tbs parsley, chopped with stems

shells, peelings and discards from whatever seafood you’re using to prepare your dish. I used lobster shell, shrimp peelings, and empty snow crab legs, after I had cracked them and taken out the meat.

Directions:

Heat olive oil at med high. Add garlic, celery, carrots, onion and seafood shells. Stir occasionally until it starts to brown. Add wine and water. Bring to a boil. Cut down to a simmer. Simmer for 40 minutes, then add paste, and seasonings. Allow to simmer another 20 minutes. Strain through sieve.

Dijon Wine Reduction Lamb Chops

This is my first official blog post ever so I’m simultaneously saying welcome and apologizing! Bear with me as I figure this stuff out…..

I have always had a very real love affair with food. And not just food,  but wine and condiments (Dijon mustard being at the very top of that list) and pretty much everything else decadent in life. My love of food and drink is rivaled only by my love of the Gulf. Living here in Gulf Breeze gives me the awesome experience of combining the two, and that is what this blog is about. I have no formal culinary training (assuming hours of watching Top Chef and Chopped doesn’t count) and everything I know about cooking I learned watching TV or through trial and error. Sometimes I get it wrong, but sometimes I get it really, really right. So, I thought I’d share some of the right times, and I hope you enjoy!

Spring comes early down here (in the Florida panhandle). I don’t care what that stupid groundhog saw or didn’t see, whatever. It’s February 21st today and I’m wearing flip flops. Yesterday, I was on the beach in a bikini and cover up. But I digress….

Although it might seem early in the season to be cooking lamb chops, down here it already feels like mid Spring. Which must be why I was inspired to cook this dish tonight….

I served this with roasted Brussels sprouts and pancetta, and Yukon gold melting potatoes, both recipes I will post later….

Dijon Wine Reduction Lamb Chops

1 shallot, minced

1 tbs whole grain Dijon mustard

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup of white wine

1 lemon, juiced

12 French ribbed lamb chops

1 tbs fresh rosemary, chopped finely

1 tbs chives, chopped finely

1 tbs garlic, minced

2 tbs cold butter, cut into pats

Directions:

Salt and pepper lamb chops. Heat  1 tbs olive oil in large saute pan to med high heat. Cook lamb chops 2-3 mins, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes. (Depending on how well you want them done. I like mine med rare.) Remove from pan, set aside and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add chicken stock and wine to deglaze pan, scraping all the good pieces off the bottom. Add shallot and garlic and allow sauce to simmer until reduced by half, stirring occasionally.

Stir in Dijon mustard, lemon juice and cut heat down to simmer. Add butter slowly, one pat at a time.  Once butter is incorporated completely, add chives and rosemary and cut heat off. Serve pork chops with sauce on top.