A tried-and-true favorite: Maple-Black Pepper Pork Chops
Ooh, just looking at that picture makes me drool! Today I am going to share one of my #1 favorite dishes, EVER. Imagine if you will: a lovely pan-seared pork chop, lightly swathed in a sweet-tart glaze of maple syrup, lots of freshly cracked black pepper, a little cider vinegar, browned shallot, and lots of earthy thyme. A dish that takes all of about 20 minutes to make, but is so knockout delicious that you could serve it for any dinner party and have very happy guests. A dish that turns out just as well with bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts; so if you get tired of pork (and it really has been the pork channel around here lately, hasn’t it? I told you it was my favorite meat…) you can just switch it up for a little variety. That, my dear readers, is what you have in this dish. I promise, if you make it, it will almost certainly become one of your favorites, too.
While I was cooking this dish, I thought I’d do a little photo essay, too. One of the top 5 things that I learned while I was at CIA Boot Camp was the proper way to pan-fry meat to ensure juicy, perfectly done results. The key? After the meat has been seared in the pan, finish it in the oven, where you can monitor the internal temperature so it comes out when it’s just done. I always did this with roasts, but not as consistently with smaller cuts of meat — chicken breasts, pork chops, etc. I’ve had more than one experience where I’d sear the first side, flip the meat over and continue cooking it on the stovetop, only to find that the meat was totally dried out, tough and/or burnt by the time it was finally done cooking. You lose a great deal of heat from the pan when trying to cook a breast or chop on the stovetop, and consequently have to cook it longer; plus, a lot of these cuts of meat are irregularly shaped, and don’t cook evenly in the pan. If you sear it in the pan to get a nice browned surface, then put the whole pan in a 350/375 F oven to finish cooking, you’ll get consistently evenly cooked, juicy results.
So here we go – here’s the process for making these beautiful, delicious pork chops, step by step:
1. Mise en place – get all of your ingredients chopped and ready beforehand. You want them at arm’s reach when you’re making the pan sauce after the chops are done.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
3. Season the meat well with coarse salt, and really rub it in. If you just sprinkle salt on the surface of the meat, you’ll get little crystals crusting the meat – you really want to get that flavor into the meat, not just on the surface. I scored some lovely pork chops from The Piggery last weekend at the farmer’s market.
rubbing the salt in
4. Preheat your (ovenproof) pan! Once the pan is HOT, pour a little oil in — it should shimmer.
A little oil goes into a hot, hot pan
5. Now, place your seasoned chops into the pan, presentation side down. LEAVE THEM. If you move them around a lot before they’ve seared well, they’ll stick and the surface will get all torn up. We want a beautiful, caramelized surface!
Place the chops in and leave them alone
6. You’ll know they’re ready to turn when the chops release from the pan when you gently pull up on one edge. Using tongs, flip the chops over – you should have some nice caramelization on the first side.
flipped onto the second side
7. Now, put a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chop. I use a remote kind, where I can stick the probe into the meat, and it’s connected to a cord that hooks into a digital reader, which I keep outside the oven. We’re going to want to cook these chops to 145 degrees F, and as you can see, they have just a little ways to go.
stick in the probe
8. Put the whole pan into the oven. Don’t walk away! It will only take about 5 minutes for the pork to cook the rest of the way. Keep your eye on the temperature, and pull the pan out of the oven when it reaches 145 degrees F.
We’re at temperature now!
9. Remove the chops to a plate, and cover them with foil to keep warm. Some carryover cooking will occur, when their internal temperature will continue to rise a bit more.
Looking so good!
10. Now: we must do something with the tasty fond that’s developed in the pan! We’re going to use it to make the glaze. Place the pan back over medium-high heat…
Yummy brown bits
11. Add in the aromatics: fresh thyme and chopped shallot. Cook those over medium heat until the shallot softens and begins to brown.
In go the aromats
12. Deglaze! We’re going to add some cider vinegar to the pan, then scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to incorporate all of the tasty bits of fond into the forming sauce.
add the cider vinegar
scrape up the fond with a wooden spoon
13. Now, add the maple syrup and fresh, coarsely ground black pepper. Turn up the heat a bit and let this reduce by about half its volume.
in goes the maple syrup and cracked black pepper
reduced by half – it looks more like a glaze now.
14. Done! Spoon the glaze over the chops to serve, and revel in the flavors.
This dish makes a great Sunday evening dinner. In fact, I think we’ll be having it for our dinner this Sunday (again.) It’s just so tasty! You could make some pureed butternut squash, dollop a bit on a plate and serve the pork chop propped up on it, with the maple black pepper glazed drizzled over…perhaps with some roasted brussel sprouts alongside? Yum! This is the food I love to eat!
Stay tuned for some Thanksgiving recipes coming up early next week!
Maple Black-Pepper Pork Chops
Adapted from Cooking with Shelburne Farms
This dish is equally delicious made with bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. In fact, the original recipe uses a whole chicken, cut into pieces. You can easily halve this recipe for 2 servings.
4 pork chops, bone-in or boneless (I like ones that are about 1 inch thick, and as always, if you can find a local purveyor of humanely-raised meat, please do choose that.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 large shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (I prefer Grade B or Dark Amber)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Pat the pork chops dry and season them well with the 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt. Rub the salt into the surface of the meat.
3. Preheat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the 2 tablespoons of oil (it should shimmer.
4. Place the chops into the pan, presentation side down. Leave them to brown on this side for a few minutes. You can tell they’re ready to flip when the meat releases from the bottom of the pan when you gently lift up an edge.
5. Flip the chops over, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of one of the chops, and put the whole pan into the oven to finish cooking.
6. When the chops reach 145 degrees F, take the pan out of the oven and place the chops on a plate. Cover with foil and set aside.
7. Return the pan to the stove. You should have about 1-2 tablespoon of fat remaining in the pan; if there’s a lot more, pour it off before putting it back on the stove. Add the shallot, thyme, and another 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook over medium-high heat until the shallot is softening and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.
8. Add the vinegar and stir with a wooden spoon to loosen the bits of fond on the bottom of the pan. Simmer for another 1-2 minutes, then add the maple syrup and ground peppercorns.
9. Simmer the sauce for about 8-10 minutes, until it’s been reduced by about half, to a syrupy/glaze consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
10. Spoon over the pork to serve.