Thursday, September 19, 2013

Perfect Pork Chops with Quick Skillet Applesauce

Start with the highest-quality, bone-in, rib chop you can find. Organic, pasture-raised pork is best. You want thick chops, about an inch and a half. This is not a quick recipe, but it isn't difficult, so plan ahead. It's a nice thing to make on a chilly fall day when you want to spend time in the kitchen. My pork chops are a three step process: Brine, bake, sear, eat.

Okay, four steps.

These pork chops are worth all the trouble, though. This method tenderizes the meat, cooks it gently, then the last sear in a hot pan gives it a fragrant, crispy, bacony crust. This method works well for thick steaks, too. Check out The Science of Good Cooking (affiliate link) for details on why it works. 

Plan to allow the chops to brine for at least 1 hour, but not more than four hours or they will get soggy. I mix up the brine in a large liquid measuring cup. 

 For the brine:

1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed
a  few whole allspice berries, crushed
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
a handful of fresh herbs from the garden: rosemary, thyme and sage are good

Add the hot water, salt, sugar, and vinegar to a large measuring cup and stir well until the solids are dissolved. Lightly crush the spices in a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin. Add the remaining ingredients to the brine. Make two 1 inch slits in the fatty edge of each pork chop with a sharp knife: this will help them lie flat as they cook. Nestle in the pork chops (add a bit more water or broth if needed to mostly cover the meat) and place in the refrigerator to brine for 1-4 hours. 

To bake the pork chops:

Remove the pork chops from the brine. Pat them dry and allow to warm on the counter for about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 275F. Place a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Put the pork chops on the wire rack, and bake until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 120-125F, 30-40 minutes. Pay close attention toward the end of cooking time; overcooked pork is tough and tasteless.

While the pork is baking, start the applesauce:

 2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
2 small apples, chopped
1 pear, chopped
pinch chili powder
pinch ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons jam (homemade nectarine habanero is great here)
1 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

In a saute pan over medium heat, warm the coconut oil. Add the onion, apple, and pear and allow to soften, stirring frequently, 10-15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, chili powder, and cinnamon and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the jam and chicken stock and stir to combine. Simmer over low heat until the fruit is broken down and thickened, and the pork chops are nearly ready. Puree with a food processor or immersion blender.

Pan-Fry the Pork Chops 

Remove the pork chops from the oven. Heat a heavy-bottom pan over high heat until screaming hot. Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil. When smoking, place in the pork chops. Let sizzle until golden brown and crusty, about 2 minutes per side. Brown the fatty edge by holding the pork chops upright with tongs. Allow the pork chops to reach an internal temperature of 145F, then remove to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Top with the skillet applesauce. Serve with mashed potatoes, something green, and a glass of wine.

With inspiration from:
Cook's Illustrated
Nopa, my favorite restaurant in San Francisco, and my favorite pork chop
and Married with Dinner

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