Who doesn’t love pork chops? I think we all can remember a time when pork chops for dinner meant super dry, pan-fried, bricks on your plate. Now we all know better. I like to cook my chops (especially the really thick ones) with a quick sear in a really hot pan on all sides and then finish them in the oven. The result is the most tender, juicy chops you’ve ever had. Super easy, super cheap, and super delicious. This particular combo of maple syrup, rosemary, pecans, and hot sauce (yaay!) sings of cool Fall nights and warm bellies.
I started by quickly brushing the chops on all sides with olive oil and rubbing with salt and pepper–all in the styrofoam package they come in! Who says you need to dirty another dish? Not me. (Although Nick would argue when I cook, I like to dirty every dish in the kitchen.)
Then the searing begins. In an oven-safe pan over medium-high heat with a light coating of oil, I threw in the chops and browned all sides–even the sides. There is a nice layer of fat on the sides. Searing that fat will make your meat even more tender.
While the chops were searing, I threw all of the other ingredients (reserving some chopped pecans for garnish) in a small saucepan and brought it to a boil. It looked like caramel! Really rich, savory caramel. The problem was that once this sauce cooled a bit at room temperature–it became overly thick and tough to work with. I ended up stirring in some of the hot fat from the pan with the chops into the thick sauce to loosen it. This worked perfectly.
Once all sides of the chops were browned, I brushed the tops with the sauce and popped them in the oven. After about 20 minutes, I used a digital (very accurate) meat thermometer to take the meat’s temperature in 2 parts of each chops. Why 2 parts each? To get a more reliable reading. Make sure you don’t hit the bottom of the pan when you do this as the temp will appear way too high–you want right in the middle of the meat. Once the thermometer hits 140-145 degrees, the chops are done. Served with some mashed potatoes and sauteed veggies, these chops were tremendous and oh-so homey.
Maple-Glazed Pork Chops with Toasted Pecans
3/4 cup pecans
1 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce
One 3-inch rosemary sprig
6 1 1/2 – 2 inch-thick pork loin chops
Vegetable oil, for brushing
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then chop. After removing the pecans from the oven, raise the temperature to 375 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup, vinegar, mustard, Sriracha and rosemary and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Discard the rosemary. (Note: if using dried rosemary, only use a pinch or 2 and leave in the maple sauce.) Add half of the chopped pecans to the sauce.
3. Meanwhile, heat 2 oven-safe cast-iron pans or stainless, uncoated pans until very hot. Brush the pork chops with oil and season with salt and pepper. Pan sear chops over medium-high heat, browning all sides, about 10 minutes. Generously brush the maple glaze on top of the chops and place the pans in the oven. Bake for 10-25 minutes (depending on the thickness of the chops.) Check the middle of each chop with a thermometer. Once it reads between 140 and 145 degrees, the chops are done. Don’t overcook! Transfer the pork chops to a platter, sprinkle the remaining pecans on top and serve.
Note: the original recipe on Food & Wine calls for grilling the chops. It also calls for 1 inch thick chops.