A long time ago, I worked at a book store that was upstairs from a used record store. There was a red haired guy that worked downstairs, and one night he asked me out. For our date, we went to a Thai food restaurant that had mediocre food, but a pretty delicious Thai iced tea as I remember it. For our second date, he came over to the apartment I was living in, and I made pork chops. I was interested in cooking, but had a minuscule food budget, and little opportunity to cook anything fancy for myself. I decided on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for pork chops with apples, sage and cream. The pork chops came out well, but when the food was done and we sat down, I realized that I had gone overboard. Suddenly, everything screamed “I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU, PERSON I HARDLY KNOW!!”
He uncomfortably said something like “wow, this is really fancy,” and I wanted to say “BUT! I just like to cook! And you’re a good excuse! You’re nice and everything, but I really just wanted to cook pork chops and didn’t know how awkward this would be!!” That was the last time we ever went out, and he went back to the girlfriend he’d broken up with a couple weeks earlier. I felt humiliated at the time, but I’ve been making variations on those pork chops ever since. Tonight, I made them for my family. When I set them down before my two boys, they yelled “DISGUSTING! THESE ARE DISGUSTING! IS THIS MEAT? IS THIS CHICKEN MEAT???? GROSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!” They immediately proceeded to finish the pork, and then asked for seconds. I’m not sure I like the reception any more, but I’m pretty sure the recipe has improved immensely.
Recipe: Pork chops with herbs, horseradish and cream
*If you don’t have white wine, substitute half the amount for Calvados, any other kind of apple brandy, or Armagnac. No apple juice? Apple cider would be good here too.
4 bone in pork chops
1 tbls salt + a pinch of salt
1 tbls chopped thyme
1 tbls ghee or high heat cooking oil
1 onion sliced thin into half moons
½ cup white wine or dry sherry
½ cup apple juice or apple cider
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tbls chopped dill
Rub pork chops with 1 tbls salt, cracked pepper, and thyme. Set a wire rack inside a sheet pan and refrigerate for as much time as you have – at least 30 minutes is good, but a day is better. You can do up to 2 days ahead – it makes a significant difference in how well the chops are seasoned.
Pat pork chops dry and heat a pan over high heat – I like cast iron because the heat remains fairly high when you add in the chops. Add ghee or oil, and wait till it smokes. Add pork chops to the pan and sear until golden brown, flipping until each side is deeply browned. Cover the pan and cook on low heat until pork chops register 145 degrees – this only took 5 minutes for me, but it will depend on how thick your chops are. Remove finished pork chops to a plate and cover with foil.
Pour out all but 1 tbls fat from the pan – you’ll have browned crusty bits leftover with – you’ll deglaze the pan with onions to lift up all this magnificent flavor. Add onions to the pan and sauté over medium heat with a pinch of salt. When onions are translucent and browned from the pan drippings, add wine and apple juice. Boil the liquids down until they’re reduced by 2/3 of the way, and then add heavy cream and horseradish. Boil that down until reduced by almost half, add any juice from the pork that’s been sitting and turn off the heat. Return chops to the pan and cover with the sauce. Serve with a hefty pile of dill on top.