Sometimes, during a really good meal, there is a moment when you suddenly notice it’s quiet. Except for the scrape of cutlery, there is no noise. Even the most convivial talker has gone head down and silent and you can’t quite put your finger on exactly when the conversation stopped. But you know why it stopped. It’s the food. Eventually someone lifts their head and, perhaps just a little winded, says “this is really good.” The moment has passed.
But, if you’re the cook, it’s magic. You know you hit the sweet spot.
Or, in the case of these pork chops, the sweet and savory spot. Succulent brined double-bone chops (one bone carefully carved off) stuffed with apple, sweet sausage, onion, homemade croutons and a generous dash of fennel seed. So good that everybody forgot to talk. Until they had to come up for air.
This recipe, with a sweet, tart sauce sharpened with a little grainy mustard, is loosely adapted from one by Prince Edward Island chef Michael Smith. It’s conversation-stopping good.
Apple and sausage stuffed pork chops
2 sweet Italian sausages, casing removed
2 onions, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 1/4 cups of apple cider
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
1 cup croutons
1 tablespoon of grainy mustard
4 double-bone pork chops, Frenched, 1 bone removed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the brine
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 gallon or so cold water
Stir salt and brown sugar into the cold water and add pork chops. Refrigerate for up to 12 hours (at least 2). Discard brine and refrigerate chops until needed.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
For the sauce, heat the chicken stock and 1 cup of apple cider in a small pan on medium heat until reduced by two-thirds (add the extra pork bones, if available, to the stock for additional flavour). About 10-15 minutes. Stir in grainy mustard and reserve.
To make stuffing, cook sausage meat over medium heat (break it up with a spatula) until browned. Add onions and cook until softened. Add apple, 1/4 cup of cider and croutons. Stir and cover for a few minutes until croutons are soft and cider is absorbed. Add fennel seeds and stir. You may need to add a little more cider or chicken stock if croutons are not fully moistened. Set stuffing aside to cool.
With a small, sharp knife, cut a pocket in each of the pork chops, working the knife tip almost to, but not through, the other side. Using your finger, put in as much stuffing as possible.
Heat an oven-proof pan to high heat and sear pork chops for two or three minutes on each side until meat is well-caramelized. Place the pan in the oven to finish the chops (Approximately 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness or until the chops reach an internal temperature of 150 F)
Reheat sauce and drizzle over the pork chops. Serve with mashed potatoes.