Brine and Dine: Maple Brined Stuffed Pork Chops

I saw this recipe on Food52 and I immediately bookmarked it. Not only had I never brined anything in my life, (and I was obviously up for something new), but the recipe included maple syrup, bacon, pork chops, and bourbon… you can stop drooling now :). The original recipe calls for pears, but I had (have) a surplus of green apples, so I diced one up and subbed it in instead. The recipe also calls for juniper berries (the berries that gin is made from), but unfortunately I didn’t have any of those on hand, either. I ended up using 2 sprigs of rosemary instead, and I loved how the earthy, piney flavor complemented the smokey sweetness of the maple syrup. Thats one of my favorite things about cooking- being able to sub different ingredients and tweak recipes according to you! Once you develop your palate and discover which flavors you like together, you can mix those flavors in to different recipes to make them your own! Anyways, below is the recipe I used. I made a toasted almond pilaf rice as a side dish- something delicate with texture I think complements the dish well. Enjoy!

Maple Brined Stuffed Pork Chops (from Food52)

Serves 4

THE BRINE

  • 4 boneless center-cut loin chops, 1” thick
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt
  • 1 cup maple syrup, grade B
  • 8 juniper berries, crushed
  • 4 bay leaves, broken up
  1. Whisk together vinegar, water, and salt until salt is dissolved. Stir in maple syrup, juniper berries, and bay leaves. 
  2. Place chops in a single layer in a non-reactive baking dish that will also hold the brine. Pour brine over chops. Turn chops over a couple of times. Cover with plastic and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours. 

TO STUFF AND COOK THE CHOPS

  • 2 shallots, 1/4” dice
  • 1/2 cup Panko or home-made bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pears, cored, 1/4” dice
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries rehydrated in hot water for 15 minutes, drained
  • Sea or Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • All 4 chops
  • Stuffing
  • 4 slices thick bacon
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup, grade B
  • Toothpicks
  • Olive oil
  • 4 ounces bourbon (use the good stuff)
  • 4 ounces maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • Sea or Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • Remaining filling for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Remove chops from brine and drain both sides on a thick stack of paper towels. Discard the brine.
  3. Melt butter in an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold all the chops. Add shallots and Panko. Cook until shallots are softened and Panko is lightly toasted. Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add diced pears and drained cranberries to the bowl. Toss gently to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove half the filling to a separate small bowl and set aside.
  4. Using a sharp paring knife, begin along one long side and create a pocket in the center of the chop. Be sure to leave a margin of about 1/2” around the remaining three sides of the chop. Pinch the chop open with one hand. Use a teaspoon (such as you’d use to stir coffee) to spoon stuffing into the pocket. Press the chop with the palm of your hand to level out the stuffing. Repeat until all chops are stuffed.
  5. Spread bacon slices out on a sheet of parchment. Use a pastry brush to paint both sides of each with maple syrup. Wrap each chop in a slice of bacon. Secure ends with toothpicks inserted straight into the chop (not the filling). Be sure to leave a good 1/2” sticking out so they’re easy to remove once the chops are cooked.
  6. Film the bottom of the skillet with olive oil. Warm over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chops. Brown well on bottom side, then turn over and brown well on other side, about 3-4 minutes per side. Place skillet in oven. Bake chops until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the chops reads 130 degrees, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer the chops to a plate or baking sheet. Cover with foil and a couple of kitchen towels, and allow to rest while you prepare the sauce. Turn off the oven, then set 4 dinner plates inside to warm.
  7. Meanwhile, make your sauce. Return the skillet to medium heat. When hot, add the bourbon. Deglaze the pan, scraping up all the lovely browned bits from the bottom. Allow alcohol to burn off. Reduce heat to medium and add maple syrup and mustard. Blend well. Cook until the syrup bubbles and reduces to a thick consistency. Remove skillet from heat and whisk in butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  8. To serve chops, remove plates from oven. Remove each chop from the baking dish one at a time to a cutting board. Use a good sharp slicing knife to slice each into pieces the short way, across the middle. Carefully fan the slices on warm plates. Spoon some of the glaze over each, then scatter some of the reserved stuffing over the top. Serve immediately.



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