Pork chops remind me of my Grandma Duffy and the Sunday dinners we ate her house when I was growing up -- except those chops were thin-cut and were a little on the tough side (likely a combination of overcooking and super lean pork). Not so with these chops -- Maple Hill Farms pork chops are thick and nicely marbled. When they came in my CSA box a few weeks ago, I knew I was in for a treat and wanted to do them justice when they hit the dinner table.
Back in March, I was at Trader Joe's in Madison and saw a display with the last of that season's blood oranges. I immediately added three bags to my cart with the intention of making marmalade (the recipe is in my cookbook, Life in a Northern Town) and went to check out. When I got home, I tucked them away in the back of the fridge and promptly forgot about them (and the marmalade)....evidently my intentions need reminders.
Fast forward to mid-May when I was rooting around in the nether-regions of the fridge and happened upon the bags of oranges. They were in decent shape but were slightly less juicy and fresh than when I stuck them back there in March. There weren't suited for a batch of marmalade so I decided to preserve them (like the lemons I always have in the fridge -- recipe in Life in a Northern Town). I wasn't sure how they'd turn out but after three weeks of gathering themselves, I was pleasantly surprised -- concentrated orange flavor without any bitterness.
They were just the thing to pair with the pork chops (along with some marmalade, maple syrup, and chipotles). My husband, Ted, said they were the best pork chops he's ever eaten (and that's quite the compliment since he's eaten his fair share of pork)!
Sweet and Spicy Pork Chops
5 cups water, divided
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
Small handfuls of thyme sprigs
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Chile de Arbol
Glaze for Pork Chops
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 chop chipotle in adobe (peppers, seeds, and adobe sauce)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons preserved orange rind (can substitute 1 tablespoon orange zest
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 bone-in South Shore Meats pork chops
4 tablespoons butter, divided
Heat all ingredients for brine, except orange juice and 2 1/2 cups water, over medium heat just until the salt and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add 2 1/2 cups water and orange juice and allow to cool (about 10 minutes). Place the pork chops in a large non-reactive container, add the brine and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours, or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove pork chops from brine, pat dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper (not a lot because the brine had salt in it) and set aside. Over low heat, combine the orange marmalade, maple syrup, chipotles, sherry vinegar, garlic, shallot, and preserved orange rind in a medium saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Set aside.
Place a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and heat for a couple of minutes. Once the pan is hot, add two tablespoons of butter (it'll foam up slightly) and add three pork chops. Sauté the pork chops for four minutes per side and place on a parchment lined sheet tray. Repeat with the remaining three pork chops.
Spoon the glaze over the pork chops and place in the oven for 10 minutes, basting the pork chops with the glaze halfway through. The pork chops are done when they reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees. Let the pork chops rest for 10 minutes and then serve with glaze/pan juices spooned over top.