Not every meal you make has to be a spur of the moment decision for you. In fact, I like to try to plan out the whole week’s menu in advance so I can make sure I have all of the ingredients I am going to need for the week ready and available when I want them. This also let’s me make some dinners that may need a little bit of extra preparation, like marinating or brining, and I know what days are better for recipes where I may need a little bit more time to make them. Planning a meal that involves brining chicken or pork usually gives you 12 hours or a day to get everything together that you need in case you don’t have everything around, along with imparting some great flavor onto whatever protein you happen to be cooking that day. Pork chops are particularly great for brining because it helps to keep the meat moist, plumps up the pork and can give it a much-needed flavor boost when you want it. This particular recipe, from New York Times Cooking and Sam Sifton, does take some planning ahead, but it leaves you with a great combination of juicy pork chops and tasty apple fritters that would make Peter Brady forget all about his pork chops and applesauce meal.
Pan-Roasted Pork Chops with Apple Fritters
For the Pork Chops and Brine:
1 cup apple cider
6 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
3 bay leaves
2 dried chiles de árbol
5 juniper berries
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 pork chops on the bone, approximately 1 ½ inches thick
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil
For the Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots peeled and finely diced
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons brandy
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon horseradish, ideally freshly grated
For the Apple Fritters:
2 cups apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch rounds
1 whole egg
½ cup very cold seltzer water
½ cup rice flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup canola oil or other neutral oil
In a large bowl, mix the apple cider with 4 cups of water, the sugar and the salt. Toast the bay leaves, chilies, juniper berries, caraway seeds, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a small pan set over medium heat until you can smell them, then add them to the brine, and stir the mixture to combine it. Add the pork chops, cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator to brine overnight or for up to 48 hours.
To pan-roast the pork chops, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the pork chops from the brine, and pat them dry with a paper towel. Season the meat aggressively with freshly ground black pepper and a little salt. Set a large sauté pan that will fit in the oven over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and when it is shimmering, place the chops in the pan. Cook the chops until they are well seared on one side, about 4 minutes, then turn the chops over, and place the pan in the oven to finish the chops, about 6 to 8 minutes. (The internal temperature of the pork, measured at the center of the chop, should be between 140 and 145 degrees for medium rare.) Remove the meat from the pan and allow the chops to rest for 5 minutes or so while you make the sauce.
Return the same pan to the stovetop and set it over medium heat, and add the butter, stirring and scraping to incorporate the meat drippings, then add the shallots and the thyme. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the brandy. Allow the mixture to reduce by half, then add the cream and the stock and reduce the mixture again, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove the sauce from the heat, and whisk in the mustard and the horseradish.
For the apple fritters, heat the apple cider and the cinnamon stick with a couple of inches of water in a large pot set over high heat. Add the apple rounds, and blanch for 1 minute, then remove them to a towel to dry. Whisk together the egg and the seltzer until the mixture is frothy, then gently mix in the rice flour and all-purpose flour. Put the oil in a large pan set over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, dip the apple rings into the batter and fry them in the oil until they are golden brown about 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve the pork chops with a few apple fritters and a heavy drizzle of sauce across the top.
This meal does take some preparation and you likely will have to get some ingredients you may not always have around the house ahead of time, but it is well worth the effort. The chops have fantastic flavor to them and the sauce for them is perfect, with a great blend of the mustard and horseradish in a cream sauce to really complement the chops. The apple fritters are always a favorite as well and work very nicely with the pork. I served this with some roasted carrots and parsnips and some store-bought pierogies to go along with the meal and it was a family favorite. If you know you have some extra time to make something, this recipe can be a great choice. It is also perfect to serve on a weekend when you might have a little more time to prepare something for dinner or are having people over. It may seem like a lot of work to make the brine, but it is really worth it so you can get the added flavor and extra juiciness with the pork. You’ll be glad you took the time to do it. I was able to find all of the ingredients I needed locally, which isn’t always easy for me, so you should be able to get everything you need to make this dish.
That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!