Pork Chop and Applesauce Dinner Gets a Makeover with Spicy Pear Chutney and Brined Pork Chops
By Carol Kicinski
Spicy Pear Chutney is just the answer! Green Anjou pears are in season and their crispy, juicy sweetness is the perfect compliment to pork chops. In about 15 minutes with some fresh, ripe pears, a few pantry items and a handful of dried cranberries you can whip up a side dish to make any ordinary pork chop company worthy.
This spicy pear chutney is a must try recipe! It not only goes great with the brined pork chops but also makes an amazing topping for pulled pork, baked chicken breasts and would even make a welcome change as an accompaniment for your Holiday Turkey!
Now let’s talk chops. About 25 years ago, the pork industry answered the demand for leaner meat. They bred pigs to have less fat and as we all know, less fat means less flavor and drier meat. So in order to pump up the flavor and juiciness of cheap supermarket pork chops, brining is the answer! Brining is soaking meat in a salty water solution with some flavoring added.
Why It Works
Remember in 5th grade science class we learned about osmosis? No, not smarter than a fifth grader? That’s ok. Simply put, water flows out of things that are less concentrated into things more highly concentrated. Brines have a higher concentration of salt than the water in the pork chop cells so the water flows out, the salt from the brining solution flows into the meat making the meat cells more concentrated so they draw the moisture back in. The bottom line is that brining makes tough flavorless meat moist, tender and more flavorful.
This brine recipe uses classic pork flavors; onion and sage. You can change up the flavor anyway you like with different herbs, spices and vegetables but keep in the basics of water, salt, sugar and vinegar. They all play their part in the brining process. The sugar will keep the pork chops from tasting too salty and the vinegar tenderizes the meat.
Four inexpensive pork chops can be purchased in most cases for about $5.00, brine and grill them, add the Spicy Pear Chutney and some steamed green beans and you have a delicious dinner for 4 for under $10.00! And aside from the brining time the whole meal was ready in about half an hour.
Spicy Pear Chutney
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium sized red onion, minced
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ – ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
3 fresh pears, chopped
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and minced red onion. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes until the onions start to soften. Add the dried cranberries and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in the sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and peaches. Combine well. Simmer on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until the pears and cranberries have softened but the pears still retain their shape. If the mixture is too liquid, turn the heat up and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve warm.
Makes about 2 cups.
Brined Pork Chops
4 cups water, use divided
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4 pork chops about ¾ inch thick
½ white onion, sliced
2 or 3 springs of fresh sage
Olive oil for brushing the pork chops
Combine 1 cup water with the salt, brown sugar and pepper in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add 3 cups of cold water and let the mixture cool. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Pour mixture into a glass baking dish or large freezer weight plastic storage bag. Add the pork chops, onions and sage. Refrigerate for 1 – 12 hours. Even a little bit of brining is better than none.
Take pork chops out of the fridge and rinse them well with cold water the pat dry with paper towels. Let set for about 5 minutes before cooking.
Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium high heat. Brush the pork chops with olive oil and cook for 4 minutes per side (more or less depending on the thickness of the pork chops). Remove from pan, brush the top with a little more olive oil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 pork chops.
Carol Kicinski is a gluten-free food writer, recipe developer, and television chef. She is the author of the upcoming cook book “Simply…Gluten-free Desserts” and has a monthly gluten-free cooking segment on the nationally syndicated morning show “Daytime”.
For more gluten-free recipes visit her blog at http://simplygluten-free.blogspot.com/