My latest CSA share pick up was yet another exciting parcel. It consisted of a smoked ham steak, pork chops, lamb osso bucco, lamb chops, and lamb shanks. Lamb happens to be one of my favorite meats so I was overjoyed at the abundance of it and look forward to sharing different preparations of it with you this month. I also still have hot Italian sausages, ground pork, and a lamb steak left from last month so I guess there will be more meaty recipes than usual on this blog this month.
So far I’m really enjoying my meat CSA share. I love that I can talk directly with the producers about how the animals are raised, rather than trying to deduce it from packaging. With the exception of a couple slices of bacon, it’s completely negated my need to buy meat from the grocery store and has encouraged me to cook with cuts of meat I otherwise might not select. So was the case this week with the pork chops. Although in my head they seem very American, they rarely take center stage on my table. For whatever reason I’ve always thought of pork as a relatively bland and leathery meat. However, as I brainstormed a menu around my chops I had reason to be optimistic. I’d recently prepared a ham steak from my CSA share based on a recipe for Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Onion-Fig Relish out of Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast. The resulting dish was so tender and flavorful that it caused me to rethink pork. I realized maybe my issue wasn’t with all pork, just the factory farm raised variety I was accustomed to buying from the grocery store. (I also recognize that over time I’ve developed into a much better cook so it’s also possible my refined techniques also help.)
This week I wanted to pair my pork with apples because beside being a match made in heaven it was also another great excuse to whiddle my apple supply. I knew I would be going apple picking again this weekend, this time with some local blogger friends, so I knew I should make a serious dent in my stash to make room for, you guessed it, more apples.
Another recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Healthy Cooking, this dish of Cider-Braised Pork Chops didn’t disappoint. The pork chops are dusted in a spice mixture that includes, among other things, a nice bite of flavor from Chinese Five Spice Powder, and then browned in a skillet before braising in a mixture of chicken stock and apple cider (or in my case, fresh apple juice) apples and onions. Before serving the sauce is finished off with a little fat free evaporated milk (my favorite secret for adding rich flavor without a lot of saturated fat) and some red wine vinegar. The result is a dish sure to convert anyone who swears they don’t like pork. The creamy, caramel-y sauce is balanced out perfectly by the savoriness of the meat. I served it up with some simple orange and cinnamon scented roast carrots, but a potato or cauliflower mash would be equally irresistible. It’s a perfect dish for the increasingly chilly weather, especially with a small glass of ice cider.
Cider-Braised Pork Chops with Apples Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking Serves 4
Ingredients: -1 teaspoon dried oregano -1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder -1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika -1/2 teaspoon kosher salt -1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper -4 thin boneless center-cut pork loin pork chops, about 1 pound total weight (trimmed of all visible fat) -4 teaspoons canola oil -1/3 cup fresh apple juice or apple cider -2 tablespoons red wine vinegar -1 small apple, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges -1 cup reduced-sodium, fat free chicken broth -1/4 cup evaporated fat free milk
Make the spice rub for your chops by stirring together the first five ingredients.
Coat the pork chops evenly on both sides with the spice rub. Set meat aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep, frying pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 teaspoons of the canola oil. Add the onion and saute until lightly browned, about five minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the pan and return it to the medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and sear until lightly browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn and brown the meat on the other side, 3-4 minutes. Transfer the meat to the plate holding the onion.
Return the pan to medium heat and pour in the apple juice (or cider) and vinegar. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the brown bits from the pan bottom. Return the meat and onion to the pan and place apple wedges and onions on top of the meat. Pour in the broth, cover, and simmer until the pork chops are opaque throughout, about 10 minutes, reducing the heat as the liquid begins to boil.
Transfer the chops, apple wedges, and onion to a warmed platter. Pour the milk into the pan, raise the heat to high, and boil until the liquid is reduced by one third, about five minutes. Pour the sauce over the chops and serve immediate.