APPLE-STUFFED PORK CHOPS with CIDER SAUCE
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Pork never had it so good as in this dish filled with fall flavors!
- For the Stuffing:
- 4 slices pumpernickel or dark rye sandwich bread, crusts removed & diced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium sweet yellow onion, diced
- 10 dried apple rings, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves, plus 2 whole sprigs for the sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, plus 4 whole sprigs for the sauce
- 1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider, or unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice
- For the Chops:
- 6 bone-in center-cut pork chops, at least 1 1/2 inches thick
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, small dice
- 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
- 1 small carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons apple brandy (optional)
- 2 cups unfiltered apple cider, or unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice
- 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons crème fraiche
- For the Stuffing: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes to dry out. Remove from oven and set aside. Raise the oven temperature to 375°F. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When it foams, add the diced apples and let them brown, stirring only occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and remaining 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onions, salt and freshly ground white pepper and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cooked apples, bread cubes, dried apples, sage and thyme and cook until heated through. Stir in the apple cider, season with salt and pepper, remove from heat, and set aside.
- For the Chops: Rinse the pork chops and pat them dry with paper towels. Holding a sharp paring knife parallel to the work surface, cut a 3-inch-wide pocket into each pork chop all the way to the bone. Move the knife in a fanning motion to create a larger pocket, being careful not to cut through the top or bottom of the pork. Repeat with the other pork chops. Season chops well on all sides and inside each pocket with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stuff 1/8 of the stuffing into each pocket.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, place three pork chops in the pan. Sear the chops until they are nicely browned, then turn them to brown the other side. When the chops are browned, remove them from the pan to a rimmed baking sheet or baking dish large enough to hold them all comfortably. Dump out the used oil that remains in the pan, but do not wash the pan. Repeat with the other chops.
- When all the chops are seared, place them in the oven and bake until they are fully cooked and a thermometer inserted into the center registers 145°F, about 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, return the pan used for browning the chops to medium heat. (Do not clean the pan!) Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, onion, celery, and carrot to the pan. Cook until the vegetables are softened and brown around the edges, about 5 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat, add the apple brandy, and return it to the heat. (If you want, carefully tilt the pan to ignite the brandy.) Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any of the browned bits that have adhered to the pan. Stir in apple cider and bring to a simmer for about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth and herb sprigs, and return to a simmer. Cook until sauce is reduced to 2 cups, about 12 minutes. Strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve and return it to the pan. Whisk in the crème fraiche to thicken the sauce slightly.