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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Chop Chop

Pork chops are notoris for being dry and tough. Greg and I have been making them for years and we never seem happy with the outcome. However, we recently started taking a new approach.

brine + gravy = juicy chops

If you make pork chops, they have to be served with gravy. I know that might seem like an obvious fix, but a lot of recipes for pork chops don't call for a sauce or gravy. You have to inprovise and make a sauce if the recipe does not call for one. Usually a white wine or chicken stock based sauce will work with pork chop recipes.

Also, only cook them until they are done. Even thick pork chops won't take very long. If you leave them cooking past their done stage they will be as dry as the Sahara and they will be like eating blocks of wood. I know you all know what I mean...we have all had the block of wood pork chop.

A while back we made pork chops and Greg suggested we should brine, which was a great idea. They brined all day and then I seared and cooked them in chicken stock. I made a maple sauce to go over them. They got that nice brown crust on them and then gently cooked the rest of the way in the stock. The sauce was awesome. And the best thing....they were juicy!

A few nights ago I made pork chops again and they turned out great.

Here is what we brined them in:

2 cups water
2 cups apple juice
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 celery stalks
20 black peppercorns

We put it all in a ziplock bag with the chops and they hung out in the refrigerator.

When I was ready to cook them, I remove the chops from the brine and rinsed them under cold water and patted them dry. Now for the sauce.

Molasses-Mustard Glaze

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup apple juice
Salt and pepper

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Season the chops on both sides with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown. This won't take long, so don't run off and water the plants or something for 20 minutes. Once browned on both sides, remove from pan.

Now for the onions.

I thinly sliced a really big onion and cooked them over medium heat until they were caramelized. It takes about 10-15 minutes. Once caramelized, add Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, molasses, and apple juice and bring to a simmer. Add the seared chops back to the pan and turn the heat to low and cover. The chops we had were thick so I let them cook on low for 20 minutes. This is just enough time to make some wild rice and steam some mixed veggies.

When the rice is done, you are ready to plate it up. I served the chops on a bed of rice with the caramelized onion sauce over the top. Mixed veggies on the side. It's really good! They are juicy because of the brine and also because I didn't overcook them.

**If 20 minutes pass and you are not ready to serve them, remove them from the pan and loosely cover them with foil. Don't let them continue to cook in the pan! You can leave a lot of meats on the stove to hang out until you are ready to serve, but pork chops are not one of these things. They will turn into blocks of wood before you know it!

Now, you might say it sounds like a lot of mustard or that it must be sweet from the juice and molasses, but it's neither of those things. I don't know how, but it all comes together perfectly.

One thing I have learned about cooking is, you have to try things even if you don't think you like it. I wasn't sure about the molasses and almost used something else, but then I just went for it. Turns out you can't even tell there is molasses in it.

I thought I didn't like fennel, but as it turns out, it's really good when it's cooked! I had no idea until I tried a recipe that called for fennel. I still don't care for it raw, but cooked is a different story.

Mint. I was pretty sure I didn't want mint leaves in anything I ate. Well, turns out they are not bad on fruit. And just saying that makes me crinkle my nose a little...even tho I know it's good. I just have an adversion to mint....or thought I had, I guess I should say. Although, I do like peppermint patties.

Anyway, there is your pork chop lesson. Follow my 3 rules; brine, gravy or sauce and only cook till done, and you should experience juicy pork chops :)

**I cooked mine for 20 minutes because they were very thick. You need to judge cooking time of the thickness of the meat. Thin-cut chops will not need very long at all.


Anonymous said...

Hey, remember Chop Chop the dog? lol

Anonymous said...

Add in some Applewood Smoked Bacon and serve with some warm applesauce and baked beans with a sweet molasses base.

Yum, when do we eat?