After talking about it for years, Shawn and I finally signed up for a farmshare/CSA type thing-y. Yup – in November. Not exactly prime harvest time here in upstate New York, but I’m determined to make it work. I figure as packed as my cabinets are, as long as I have a steady stream of fresh produce I won’t have any excuse not to cook a decent dinner.
Then, my first delivery came. And let’s just say it wasn’t exactly the easy-to-throw-together staples that I was expecting. Daikon? Turnips? Mustard Greens?! I started by focusing on the familiar: apples, apple cider, garlic… those ingredients seemed to be calling for pork chops.
I started by brining my chops in apple cider. This is one of my absolute favorite ways to cook pork – it the brine infuses them with a subtle apple flavor and makes them incredibly moist and tender. I pretty much refuse to eat pork chops that haven’t been brined. Then I cooked them in a cast iron skillet and finished them off with a cider and cream sauce inspired by one I had at a Dairy Council event last weekend.
On the side, I served stuffing* with onion, celery, and diced apple and I sautéed the mustard greens in a little olive oil and loads of garlic. The the pork and the stuffing were earth and sweet, the bright, bitter greens served as a palate cleaner and really tied the dish together. Without them, the flavors might have been too muddled. Mustard greens aren’t exactly the easier thing to find at the grocery store, but Swiss chard or even spinach would make a great substitute.
(No, it wasn’t stuffed into anything. And no, I won’t call it dressing. Stuffing 4 Life!)
- 3 cups apple cider divided
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 8 fresh thyme springs divided
- cracked black pepper
- 2 pork chops about 1/2 pound each (or one large pork chop cut in half crosswise)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon butter
- ½ shallot minced
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- In a saucepan set over medium heat, combine 2 cups apple cider, salt, brown sugar, garlic, 4 thyme sprigs, and cracked black pepper (about 1 teaspoon). Bring to a simmer and allow salt and sugar to dissolve. Let cool completely. Place the pork chops in a shallow container with a lid. Pour the brine over top. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.
- When ready to cook: Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat them dry. Heat a heavy pan over high heat. When hot, add the oil. When the oil is sizzling, add the pork chops (don’t let them touch in the pan) and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the bottom is nicely browned, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes or until center is no longer pink and an internal temperature of at least 150. Transfer the chops to a 200-degree oven to keep warm.
- Pour off any fat and return pan to the stove. Melt the butter and sauté the shallot until softened, 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup of cider and 4 thyme springs. Bring to a simmer and let reduce by half. Remove thyme stems. Stir in cream. Serve pork chops with the pan sauce.