Friday, October 29, 2010

Apple Cider Braised Pork Chops and Sweet Potato "Fries"

I was about a fourth of the way through my pork chop a few nights ago when I realized, "Wow!  This is actually pretty good!"  I sound surprised only because I invented this recipe from what I had on hand.  And so I share it with you.  I'm always looking for new ways to serve common cuts of meat (chicken breast, pork chops, skirt steak, you get the idea), and the pork chops with apples pairing is pretty classic.  This way makes the chops flavorful, juicy, and tender while also creating a pretty unique sweet-savory gravy from the braising liquid.

I paired the pork chops with  sweet potato "fries."  I say "fries" in quotation marks because I don't own a deep fryer, and I used a minimal amount of oil on the sweet potatoes themselves.  Instead, I cut them in the shape of fries and threw them in the oven at 500 degrees.  While you don't get the crispiness of fries, you do get some lovely delicious browned bits which are damn close enough as far as tastiness is concerned.  I used both the white-fleshed sweet potatoes and the orange-fleshed yams, which adds a pretty color contrast and a slight variety in flavor to the plate.  Sprinkle a little parsley on top, and you've got yourself a hearty autumn meal.

Apple Cider Braised Pork Chops

(Serves 2)

2 pork chops, either bone-in or boneless, trimmed of excess fat
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1-2 tablespoons flour
1/2 Walla Walla sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Granny Smith Apple, diced
3/4 cup spiced apple cider (Trader Joe's brand works nicely)
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock (confession: I was out of stock so I used a bullion cube, which worked fine)
Roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper

1.  Take the chops out of their packaging.  Dry slightly with paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  This step is best done ahead of time; the chops can then be left to come to room temperature while you slice up your apples and onions.

2.  Add the 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a high-sided skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Once the skillet is good and hot, place both chops in the pan and allow to sear for 2-3 minutes a side for the boneless and 3-4 minutes a side for the bone-in, until there is some good brownness on the surface of the meat but the chops are still quite raw in the middle.

Mmm, gravy...
3.  Remove the chops and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium; quickly add the onions, saute for about thirty seconds, then add the extra small pat of butter and the flour, stirring to combine, until the onions are coated.  Add the vegetable stock and cider, scraping the bottom of the ban to deglaze any of the brown bits.  Add the chopped apples.  Bringing the liquid to a simmer, place the chops back in, so that the chops are about halfway submerged.  Simmer for about 10-12 minutes; when the chops are firm but not rock hard, they are probably done.  (You can always cut one open - if there is a slight, slight pink blush in the middle, they are ready).  Remove the chops and cover with foil.  Bring the braising liquid up to high heat to boil until it has reduced by more than half and the onions and apples are completely cooked through to make a gravy.  You could also puree the gravy with an immersion blender if you prefer a smoother consistency.  Spoon the thickened gravy over the chops and sprinkle with the chopped parsley to serve.

Sweet Potato "Fries"

1 sweet potato
1 yam
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder

1.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  (No, that's not a typo - a really hot oven makes for really brown fries.)

2.  Peel the sweet potato and yam.  Cut into fry-sized sticks.

I used two pans for a single layer.  Mmm, leftovers.
3. On a baking sheet or a 13 x 9 pan, toss the "fries" with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, the salt, pepper, and onion powder.  You could also add any other spices you think might be delicious.  Spread the fries out so they are in a single layer.

4.  Bake the fries, stirring occasionally, for 20-35 minutes, depending upon how brown you want the fires to be.  Taste the fries once they are out of the oven to see if additional salt is needed; sprinkle with parsley and enjoy.

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