If it’s been a while since you cooked something that prompted you to literally lick your plate, this is the recipe for you. It requires some thinking ahead, since the chops need to sit in the brine overnight, but you won’t be sorry.
I first made this last summer at our beach vacation, where each couple takes turns preparing dinner for the group. Then, I used a tenderloin, but my grocery store happened to be out this week so I went with chops this time.
I am not usually a “meat person,” but the meat department at Whole Foods has a tendency to change my mind. These chops are from Thompson Farms Smokehouse in Brooks County, Georgia. Before they were on our dinner table, these pigs enjoyed roaming free in a pasture instead of being penned up in a factory farm. Yes, they were exponentially more expensive than the stuff from the styrofoam-and-plastic section, but that’s important to me and something I’m willing to pay more for. Anyway, off the soapbox.
This dish starts out with an apple cider-based brine, and follows with cooking the chops on the stove. I am really bad at this, as I can never get the temperature correct to cook meat thoroughly and not burn it. So I always have to finish in the oven. I am not a fan of overcooked pork, but with a 2-year-old, I always go the well done route.
Now for the plate-licking part: the pan is deglazed with Calvados, which I have learned is basically apple brandy (known in these parts as moonshine). However, this fancy Spanish version costs at least $30 a bottle, and since this is the one and only recipe I know that calls for it, I made do with what I had. Which was a bottle of Jim Beam and apple juice. Make it work, you know?
To this glaze, you add butter, shallots, cream, mustard, more apple cider and thyme (or if you’re like me and realized too late that you don’t have any thyme, just whatever you find in the spice cupboard). Meals like this are a great reason to use one of my favorite wedding gifts: Laguiole steak knives. Many wonderful things came out of our wedding five years ago, and the kitchen accoutrements are right up there.
We served these chops with mashed potatoes, which also provided an excellent vessel for the sauce, used as a “gravy” on top.
Go ahead, I dare you to make it without licking your plate.