Thursday, December 29, 2011

Skillet Pork Chops with Apple and Onion Saute

We in the Foodie family are not pork people, as a general rule.  I’ve made a pork loin on Christmas Eve several times, but we favor turkey bacon and sausage over their pork counterparts, and we rarely ever eat ham.  But, while I was doing the grocery shopping this week, I saw a package of pork chops and noted that the price was right.  Plus, I was just in the mood to try something different.  Surely, I thought, it’s possible to create a pork chop recipe that everyone will enjoy.  I am, after all, The Family Foodie.

One of the Foodie children’s objections to pork chops is that they’re tough and hard to chew.  I decided to start off by marinating the pork chops in buttermilk for about four hours, to soften them up.  Then I did some research to find a combination of seasonings that might work for the chops.  The Boy really doesn’t like sage, but it kept coming up in every recipe I consulted.  In the end, I compromised by including it, but scaling it way back, so it wasn’t the most prominent flavor.  A number of recipes called for allspice, which I didn’t have on hand; normally I’d substitute ground cloves, but I was out of those too.  (Winter baking tends to deplete those warm spices.)  So, I used a touch of cinnamon, assuming it would work well in this savory dish since it has served me well in Moroccan dinner dishes in the past.

I also used water, rather than apple juice, for the apple and onion saute sauce.  A number of recipes called for the latter, but I thought that sounded like it would be awfully sweet and probably mask the flavor of the onion altogether.   You might also use chicken stock, or even white wine, though I thought water worked just fine; it picked up some of the flavor from both the apples and onions, as well as the spices from the flour, while the sauce was thickening.

If you try this recipe, be sure to wipe the pork chops dry after you’ve taken them from the marinade.  You can do this by covering a plate with a double thickness of paper towels, shaking the chops free of as much buttermilk as possible, laying the chops on the towel-lined plate, then covering them with another double thickness of paper towels and pressing down gently, to absorb any remaining buttermilk.  If you skip this step, the seasoned flour mixture won’t stick to your chops–it will stick to the buttermilk, and then it will fall off in the frying pan when you’re browning the meat.  Save yourself that feeling of despair and just dry off the pork chops.

The final verdict?  “Better than I was expecting,” The Girl said, “but I still don’t like pork chops.  They’re just too hard to chew.”   The Boy, for this part, pronounced it “Adequate.”  They both enjoyed the apples and onions, though, especially mixed with the rice I served on the side.  (I didn’t peel my apple, by the way, though you can certainly do so, if you prefer.)  Meanwhile, The Hubs and I both thought this was really, really tasty.

So the next time I make this dish–and there will be a next time, pork chops, just be forewarned–I’ll either marinate the chops starting the night before I plan to make them, or I’ll layer the apples and onions with the pork chops in my slow cooker and let it simmer away for about four hours.   That should help to tenderize the meat even further, thus pleasing the Foodie children.  Which is, of course, my goal in life.

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Skillet Pork Chops with Apple and Onion Saute

Ingredients:

4 boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick and tenderized
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. brown sugar
1 medium yellow onion, cut in half, then in thin slices
1 medium red apple, cut in half, then in thin slices
1 cup water

Directions:

Place the pork chops in a large bag with a zip top. Pour the buttermilk over them, season with salt and pepper, and zip the bag closed. Put the bag in your refrigerator until you're ready to make dinner, flipping it over or giving a squeeze (to redistribute the buttermilk) whenever you think about it. Let the chops marinate for at least 4 hours; even longer is better.

When you're ready to cook the pork chops, combine the flour and seasonings in a large, shallow bowl. Reserve one tablespoon of this flour mixture for later use and stir it together, in a small dish, with the brown sugar. Set this mixture aside. Take the pork chops out of the buttermilk and dry them thoroughly, then dredge them lightly in the seasoned flour. Set them aside while you let a large skillet heat up.

Spray the hot skillet with cooking oil. Add the pork chops and brown them on both sides, but don't worry about cooking them through, at this point. About 3 minutes per side should do the trick. Remove the pork chops from the skillet and set them aside on a plate.

Add the onions to the skillet. Stir them around and let them soften for about 3 minutes. Add the apples and let them saute alongside the onions for about 2 minutes; stir this mixture around so the apples get down to the bottom of the skillet and start to give up a little of their juice. After a couple of minutes, push the apples and onions to the sides of the pan, leaving an empty spot in the middle. To this empty spot add the water and the reserved flour/brown sugar mixture. Whisk to make sure everything is combined, then move everyone back toward the middle of the pan. The liquid will distribute itself throughout, which is exactly what you want.

Return the chops to the pan, place them on top of the apple and onion mixture. Cover the saute pan with a lid and let it continue to cook, over medium-low heat, for about five minutes, until the pork chops and cooked through and the saute sauce has thickened. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes on the side.

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