I've been craving these Smothered Pork Chops for months and I finally had a chance to make them and share our meal with you! My mother used to make them for us when I was young and they were always a special treat.
This meal is one of the best ways to utilize the produce you can easily get all year long, but especially in the fall. Onions and apples are readily available and inexpensive. When you are craving comfort foods, you can pull this together in no time.
Pork chops come in many thickness, boneless, or bone-in. While the thin boneless cuts are great for quick midweek meals, for this recipe I prefer bone-in chops about 1-inch or thicker. They are more forgiving and harder to overcook. Pork these days should be cooked to just under medium with a touch of pink in the center - the guidelines say 145°F in the center. Pull them off the heat a little before they are done and let them rest, lightly covered. They will finish cooking off the heat, gently coming to the perfect temperature.
I have made many pan sauces over the years, each one enhancing the main course. A touch of wine or stock added to the pan you've used to cook your protein and you've got one of the best sauces you've ever tasted. In this case we are using apple cider as the primary liquid to deglaze the pan. What an amazing way to infuse the apple flavor throughout the sauce. A little wine helps cut the sweetness, taking the sauce more toward savory and creating the perfect accompaniment for luscious pork chops.
Onions have a lot of natural sugars in them and when you combine them with tart apples, it is a beauty to behold. Did you know there is a big difference between slicing an onion horizontally vs. lengthwise? Cut them crosswise (along the "equator") and they will dissolve as they cook; cutting them lengthwise will help them hold their shape. If you want recognizable pieces of onion, cut them lengthwise. For this recipe I recommend holding half the onions back and adding them about halfway through the cooking so you get more texture.
If you have the time, par-cook the chops in advance, wrap and hold them in the fridge. Then you can make the sauce and let it simmer slowly, developing even more flavor. There is nothing like slow simmering to elevate a dish from ordinary to outstanding!
This dish always reminds me of Peter Brady saying, "pork chops and applesauce" in his best Bogart imitation. Only instead of applesauce, we serve them with an elegant sauce flavored with apples and onions. I am certain that Peter Brady and Christopher Knight would love this!
I hope you enjoy it as much as The Artist and I did. Enjoy!
Smothered Pork Chops with Onions and Apples (Gluten-Free)
© 2016 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook. All rights reserved.
Inspired by a Cook's Illustrated recipe
Yield: 4 servings
2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
4 bone-in pork chops, each 3/4 to 1 inch thick, patted dry
Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 medium-large onions, trimmed, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced thinly lengthwise,
1 or 2 tart green apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly
2 tbsp dry white wine, dry vermouth, or water
2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
Apple Cider Sauce
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour (see Note below)
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup dry white wine, dry vermouth or chicken stock
Mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or cooked rice, for serving
Apple wedges for garnishing
Minced parsley, chives, or other fresh herb, for garnishing
Cook Pork Chops: Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sprinkle both sides of chops with salt and pepper. Lay them in in the hot pan and cook until deep golden on the first side, about 3 minutes. Flip chops with tongs and cook until browned on second side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer chops to large plate, tent with foil, and set aside. You will finish cooking them in the sauce.
In the same skillet you cooked the pork in, add the remaining 1 tbsp oil, the onions, apples, a dash of salt. When the onions and apples are sizzling, add the wine and bring to a boil. Scrape up the browned bits on the pan bottom, (this is called deglazing) and lower the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme until it is evenly distributed. Push all the onions to one side of the skillet.
Return the chops and their liquid to the pan in a single layer, scooping the onions on top of the chops. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the chops are tender. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your chops. Pull them off the heat when an instant read thermometer inserted in the center (and not touching a bone) registers 140°F, tent loosely with foil, and let the residual heat finish cooking them. You want to serve them at about 145°F. It is safe to have a little pink left in the center of the pork chops these days.
Make the Sauce Base: While the chops are cooking, in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the butter and oil until the butter is melted. Gradually whisk in the flour until smooth. Cook, whisking frequently, until mixture is light brown, about the color of peanut butter, about 5 minutes (you've just made a roux!!). Whisk the apple cider in a slow stream until it is fully blended. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring often, until thickened. Remove from the heat.
Finish the Sauce: When the pork is finished cooking, use tongs to transfer the chops to a warmed serving platter and tent with foil. Pour the apple roux into the skillet with the pork juices. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer rapidly, stirring frequently, until thickened to a gravy-like consistency, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if needed. If the sauce isn't thickening enough, make a slurry out of cornstarch and water and whisk it into the sauce. Bring it to a boil whisking constantly until smooth and thickened.
To Serve: Scoop a serving of mashed potatoes, noodles or rice onto serving plates. Set 1 to 2 chops on top and pour some of the sauce over and around the chops. Tuck some apple wedges around the edges. Sprinkle with herbs and serve immediately.
NOTE: You can use virtually any gluten-free flour to thicken the sauce, or use cornstarch, potato starch, or arrowroot if you prefer. The best choices will be more neutral-flavored flours like rice, millet, sorghum, or an all-purpose blend.