May 10, 2009
I love cooking fruit with meat, particularly pork and apples. It's a little like introducing two old friends to each other, and watching them get on as well as you expected them to. These pork chops with apples and sage, adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver, are wonderfully companionable. They spend a little time on the stove-top, browning and crisping, and then get comfortable in the oven for a few minutes more.
Also, this was the best sage I've ever eaten. Something about the brief frying and then the time in the oven makes the leaves perfectly crisp, and concentrates the flavour beautifully. Crisp sage, sweet apples, tender pork: delicious.
Pork chops can get tough and dry, so I brine mine. All that means is soaking the pork in a water, sugar and salt solution for up to 12 hours before cooking them. You can add ingredients to the brining liquid for extra flavour - I slipped in a clove of garlic and some sage, and next time I make this I might replace a little of the water with apple cider vinegar. You can skip the brining, of course (Jamie's recipe doesn't include this step), but it's very little work for a great deal of difference. All you need to do is plan in advance, even just by a couple of hours. Just remember that brined meat is saltier, so you won't need to add salt later in the cooking.
This was one of my favourite meals this year. I served it with creamy mustard potato salad, shallots caramelised in brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, and lightly steamed French beans.
Pork Chops with Apple & Sage
adapted from Jamie Oliver on Serious Eats
3 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup coarse salt (sea salt; or kosher salt, which is cheaper)
1/8 cup sugar
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
a few sage leaves
2 thick pork chops, about 9 oz each
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 good eating apple, peeled, cored and each cut into 8 wedges
1 tbsp butter
a handful of fresh sage leaves
To prepare the brining liquid:
Boil the water. Dissolve the sugar and salt in the boiling water, then remove from the heat. Add pepper, and chill the water before adding the pork.
Prepare the pork by making some slashes with a sharp knife along the fatty side of each chop.
Place the chops in the brining liquid. Add the garlic and a few sage leaves. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
When you're ready to cook the chops, preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
Remove the chops from the liquid and wash thoroughly, twice. Dry with paper towel and grind pepper over both sides (if you haven't brined the chops, you should also sprinkle them with salt).
Pour a glug of olive oil into a hot skillet.* Carefully place your chops in it and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. When the chops are nearly done, remove them from the skillet. Add the apple wedges and the butter to the pan and fry until a light golden brown. Add the sage leaves and fry for a further minute. Return the pork to the skillet, and scoop some of the apple and sage over the top of each chop. Put the skillet into the oven for 4 to 6 minutes until everything is golden and the sage is crisp. These chops will be pinkish on the inside; if you prefer less pink, leave them in the oven for another 3 or 4 minutes.
* If you don't have a skillet, or a frying pan that also goes into the oven, do what Jamie does: brown the meat, put it in a baking dish, fry the sage and apples, pour them over the chops in the baking dish, and place the dish in the oven.