Christmas is over, but Jim and I have a whole week of vacation left. A whole week of reading, cooking, eating, cuddling, and movie-watching. A whole week of anything we want. A whole week of nothing.
That’s not to say that Christmas was not what we wanted—anything but. This Christmas was one of the happiest I’ve ever had. Christmas Eve was spent movie-watching, gossiping, and giggling with my family. Christmas morning was our as-usual-wonderful present exchange, and I was especially proud of the gifts I gave out—mango chutney, pear jam, pomegrante jelly, orange marmalade, homemade peppermint patties, toffee and cookies—and I hope to blog about them soon. I received awesome gifts as well—a lovely perfume, super-sharp kitchen knives, cute kitchen towels, a snazzy apron. After the morning, Jim and I drove down to is parents’ house, where we ate and ate and ate—a locally slaughtered lamb, pates, flourless chocolate cake, etc, etc!
While it was all perfect and merry, I was excited to get home and start my week of being at home with Jim. And there’s no better way to start than with cider brined pork chops with leeks and apples.
If you think the combination of this dish is strange, just trust in me when I say it’s absolutely perfect. I first made this for a dinner party, very wary of the flavor combination involved. The day of the party, I would have abandoned the whole thing in fear if I hadn’t bought all the ingredients prior, so I decided to just let loose and go with it, and to my surprise it turned out to be the best meal I’ve ever made. The creamy leeks are complimented by the sweet apples, and the pork is just divine with the subtle cider flavor lingering from the brine. It’s rare that I keep exactly to a recipe, but this one from Bon Apetite Magazine is so perfect that there need be no substitutions.
It was the perfect way to start off our vacation—like Christmas all over again!
Bon Appétit | September 2001
Ingredients4 1/4 cups apple cider
3 tablespoons coarse salt
6 allspice berries
1 bay leaf
4 10-ounce bone-in center-cut pork rib chops 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
5 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
1 cup whipping cream1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, halved, each half cut into 4 wedges
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/3 cup CalvadosOlive oil
MethodBring 4 cups cider, salt, allspice, and bay leaf to boil in large saucepan, stirring to dissolve salt.* Cool completely. Place pork in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Pour brine over. Cover; refrigerate overnight. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks; sauté until tender, about 7 minutes. Add cream and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Creamed leeks can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.) Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add apples and sauté 10 minutes. Add sugar and sauté until apples are golden, about 6 minutes longer. Add stock, then Calvados and remaining 1/4 cup cider. Simmer until liquid thickens slightly and apples are tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Prepare barbecue (medium heat) or preheat broiler. Drain pork. Rinse under cold water; pat dry. Brush pork with oil. Grill or broil to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium. Meanwhile, rewarm leeks, thinning with 1 to 3 tablespoons water if necessary. Bring apples to simmer. Spoon leeks onto plates. Top with pork, then apples.
*I forgot to do this step, and the brine came out perfect anyway, though if you have the time and inclination, go ahead! 🙂