Anytime I cook, I am thinking about four things. Is this meal affordable? Is it fast/easy? Is it nutritious? Is it delicious? Only if a recipe meets all of the requirements, does it work its way into my regular rotation. Maybe it’s my obsession with Tim Ferriss to blame, but I want the highest return on nutrition and taste for the investment of my time, money, and effort. Because of this constant focus on utility and opportunity cost, I am prone to taking shortcuts with recipes if I think I can omit a certain step to save me time, and I will not lose too much in overall flavor. Take this brine for example.
Brining a pork chop is optional. Brining a pork chop is an extra step. Brining a pork chop can be omitted and you can still enjoy a pretty decent dinner. Brining a pork chop is exactly the type of technique I am prone to skipping in the name of efficiency. It wasn’t until I took the time and effort to pursue the perfect pork chop that I realized what I was missing.
Giving full consideration to the small amount of additional time and effort it takes to brine a pork chop, I am here to tell all my fellow efficiency-seekers: brining IS worth the extra step. Your return on investment comes in the form of extra juicy meat that is perfectly seasoned and flavorful throughout. Trust me!
Perfect Pork Chops with Maple Orange Glaze
This brine, sear, and bake method is foolproof enough for a weeknight meal and impressive enough for a weekend dinner party. The spice rub gives some good heat, and the cinnamon plays nicely with the sweet maple orange glaze.
For the pork:
3 cups water, separated
4 tablespoons salt, separated
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic
4 bone-in pork chops
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the glaze:
¼ cup maple syrup
Juice of 2 large oranges
2 T broth (pork-based is ideal, but use what you have)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
S&P to taste
In a saucepan over high heat, bring 1 cup water, 3 tablespoons salt, black peppercorns, and garlic to a boil. Once salt has completely dissolved, add 2 cups cold water to bring down the temperature of the brine. Lay the pork chops flat in a casserole dish and pour the brine overtop. If the liquid does not completely cover the chops, add more cold water until it does. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but up to 4 hours.
Combine 1 tablespoon salt, ground black pepper, cayenne, cumin, and cinnamon in a small dish. Remove pork chops from brine and pat extremely dry with paper towels. Rub the meatiest portion of each chop with spice mixture on both sides.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large cast iron skillet on the stovetop and begin to heat on medium-high. Give it at least 5 minutes to warm up. When a droplet of water immediately sizzles and evaporates, add a few tablespoons of butter to the skillet. It should melt very quickly. Add the chops to the pan and let sit undisturbed for 2-3 minutes to create a crispy golden crust. Use tongs to flip the chops and place directly into the oven for 6-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the chops), or until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the chops rest 5-7 minutes off the heat so the juices can redistribute. Serve over a bed of mashed sweet potatoes and cauliflower with Maple Orange Glaze.
For the glaze: Whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for ~10 minutes or until the glaze thickens significantly. It should be the texture and thickness of syrup. Remove from heat and serve drizzled overtop of pork chops.
***Don't forget to check out my ebook, the Paleo Summer Picnic Guide, for more delicious recipes!