Pork Chops with Red Onion & Apple Chutney
I worked at a restaurant where we used to make “marmalades”, one of which was a tomato based one. The process called for red onions to be cooked down first, and it always amazed me what a subtle flavor it provided against the sweet backdrop. I had to try the combination with apples just to see and what better way for the season than to prepare them as a chutney with golden, crusty pork chops.
I’m big on brining, particularly when it comes to pork chops and chicken. I’m trying to figure out the mechanics of brining the massive turkey we’re going to prepare for Thanksgiving, but I haven’t – how we’re going to fit it all in the fridge is beyond me. But anyway, here, the brine imparts incredible moisture to the chops. It’s important to dry them fully before searing to achieve that beautiful caramelized exterior, the most flavorful part!
This apple chutney is a delicious addition to any pork dish really. The sweet red onions melt into the background. The fennel and cumin work perfectly with the pork, and the warm, mellow apples bring it all together. I used fuji apples here because they hold their shape, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand. This dish is incredibly versatile – it goes from simple weeknight supper to deserving holiday meal. Enjoy!
4 pork loin or rib chops, 1” thick
8 cups water
½ cup sea salt
¼ cup + 2 tbsps sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp coriander seeds, crushed
½ tsp whole black peppercorns, crushed
1 bay leaf
Red Onion & Apple Chutney:
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp fennel seed
½ tsp cumin seed
¼ cup red onion, finely minced
3 ½ cups apples, peeled, cored, and cut into a ½“ dice
½ tsp salt
2 tsps sugar
¼ to ½ tsp crushed red pepper
3 tbsps rice vinegar
Brining really helps the pork chops stay juicy during the cooking process. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 cups of water. Add salt, sugar and brining spices and stir until all of the salt and sugar has dissolved. Add this mixture to the remaining 6 cups of cold water. In a baking dish, lay pork chops flat and pour brine over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for anywhere from 3 to 24 hours, turning chops regularly. When ready to cook, take out from brine removing any whole spices that are stuck to the chops and dry thoroughly. If you don’t have time to brine, feel free to skip this step altogether. Results will still be delicious. Make sure that chops are room temperature before cooking.
For the chutney, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When foam subsides, add fennel seed and cumin seed. Cook for about 1 minute until the spices are fragrant. Add the red onion and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add apples, salt, sugar, and crushed red pepper and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add vinegar, reduce heat to low and let simmer 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning if necessary.
For the pork chops, preheat oven to 350° F. Season chops lightly with salt and pepper if brined, more generously if not. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to just coat the bottom of the skillet and a pat of butter, if desired. When oil shimmers, add chops and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Finish for 7 to 10 minutes in the oven depending on how well done you like your chops. I did 2 minutes per side plus 7 in the oven for medium temperature.
Serve chops topped with chutney.