All summer long when I'm baking like a Thanksgiving turkey in the New York City heat, I'm praying for fall--for my birthday, for the turkey to roast instead of me, for the crisp air blowing the season's crisp leaves. From fall to the first snowfall, and during the requisite ambling up and down Fifth Avenue while staring through the glittering panes glistening with frost, I wish, again, this time for Santa to hurry down the chimney. But then winter white turns to grey: grey slush, grey buildings, grey skies, grey moods. I'm cold. I marvel at the strength of old man winter's clutch on New York--tenacious for a reputedly geriatric season. Even though I know spring heralds summer and the resulting pizza oven-like weather, I begin to pray for spring, for the white carpet that coats the sidewalks to change miraculously from snow to fallen cherry blossoms. And then I spot the first bud, and for a few blissful weeks of confused climate, it is spring at last.
Spring in France is always all about the flowers. The flower markets just on the Seine. The great buds that spring up from the grasses of the Tuileries. The jasmine and lily of the valley that make their way into the country's Easter-egg macarons. The rose éclairs and sorbets. The orange flower tea. The perfumier opens his doors to another sense, allowing taste to revel a bit with smell in the springtime garden. I can think of no better time than Easter week to eat flowers in a slightly different, but more visual way: Dijon Pork Paillard with Spinach and Flower Salad.
So often we here in America think of paillard as overly-grilled, thin chicken breast, ordered by dieters in bistros from New York to Los Angeles. But "paillard" refers simply to a quick-cooking, thinly-pounded cut of meat, and here I use lean pork chops with the fat trimmed away. Nothing gets rid of the winter blues like smashing away at bits of meat with your rolling pin. I coat them in Dijon mustard and crust them in a mixture of baguette crumbs and panko, then pan fry until crisp. On top, I mound a salad of baby spinach and edible flowers in a rainbow of colors, tossed with a mustardy dressing of delicate champagne vinegar, whole grain mustard à l'ancien, and crème fraîche. It is the perfect dinner to eat en plein air, under a snow shower of cherry blossoms. And if one falls on your plate, you won't even notice a petal out of place.
Dijon Pork Paillard with Spinach and Flower Salad
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 clove garlic, grated
- 1 tablespoon grain mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
- Salt and pepper
- 4 thin-cut pork chops
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons Dijon
- 1 1/2 cups panko
- 1 1/2 cups baguette crumbs
- Olive oil for pan frying
- 5 ounces prewashed baby spinach
- 3/4 ounce edible flowers
First, prepare the salad dressing. In a jar, combine the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, grain mustard, honey, crème fraiche, and salt and pepper. Twist on the cap and shake vigorously.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Pound the pork chops by placing them between two pieces of plastic wrap and smacking them repeatedly with a rolling pin until they are about 1/2-inch thick. Season well with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Set up your breading station by putting the flour in one pan. The eggs and Dijon mustard should be beaten together with salt and pepper in the second pan. The panko and baguette crumbs should be tossed together in the third pan. Pass the pounded pork pieces lightly through all three stations, shaking off any excess.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add just enough oil to coat the bottom and rise up 1/4-inch or so--enough to shallow fry.
Cook the pork about three minutes on each side, until golden. Transfer to a baking sheet, and finish cooking for 5 minutes in the oven.