This is a nice main course when autumn starts, though you might start to crave it all year long.
What to buy: Pigs are bred to have leaner and leaner meat these days, but a well-marbled chop will result in a more flavorful sauce. Though pork chops can be found at any market or grocery store, we recommend ordering them from your butcher.
Pumpernickel is a dark bread, usually flavored with molasses, and it is available in most grocery stores. If you’re having a hard time locating it, substitute dark rye bread.
Use unfiltered apple cider or unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice in this recipe, as sweetened apple juice will make the sauce too cloying.
Crème fraîche is a naturally thickened fresh cream with a tangy flavor and rich texture, and it won’t curdle or separate when heated. If you can’t find it, sour cream is a decent substitute.
Game plan: There is the option to add apple brandy to this recipe. Make sure you handle it safely, as any high-proof alcohol can catch fire when added to a hot pan.
This recipe was featured as part of our Moktoberfest! menu.
For the stuffing:
1Heat the oven to 200°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and place in the oven to dry out, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
2Raise the oven temperature to 375°F. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it foams, add the diced apples and let them brown, stirring only occasionally. Remove from heat and place in a mixing bowl.
3Reduce the heat to medium and add the olive oil and remaining 1 tablespoon butter. When the butter foams, add the onions, a pinch of salt, and freshly ground black pepper and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 6 minutes.
4Stir in the cooked apples, bread cubes, dried apples, sliced sage leaves, and minced thyme and cook until heated through. Stir in the apple cider, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, remove from heat, and set aside.
For the chops:
1Rinse the pork chops and pat them dry with paper towels. Holding a sharp paring knife parallel to the work surface, cut a 3-inch-wide pocket into each pork chop all the way to the bone. Move the knife in a fanning motion to create a larger pocket, being careful not to cut through the top or bottom of the pork. (Check out our photo tutorial on Cutting a Pocket into a Pork Chop for more information on how to do this.) Repeat with the other pork chops. Season the chops well on all sides and inside each pocket with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stuff 1/8 of the stuffing into each pocket.
2Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, place 3 pork chops in the pan. Sear the chops until they are nicely browned, then turn them to brown the other side. When the chops are browned, remove them from the pan to a rimmed baking sheet or baking dish large enough to hold them all comfortably. Dump out the used oil that remains in the pan, but do not wash the pan. Repeat with the other chops.
3When all the chops are seared, place them in the oven and bake until they are fully cooked and a thermometer inserted into the center registers 145°F, about 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, return the pan used for browning the chops to medium heat. (Do not clean the pan!) Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, onion, celery, and carrot to the pan. Cook until the vegetables are softened and brown around the edges, about 5 minutes.
4Remove the pan from heat, add the apple brandy (if using; otherwise, do this with some of the apple cider), and return it to the heat. (If you want, carefully tilt the pan to ignite the brandy.) Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any of the browned bits that have adhered to the pan. Stir in the apple cider and bring to a simmer for about 8 minutes.
5Add the chicken broth and herb sprigs and return to a simmer. Cook until the sauce is reduced to 2 cups, about 12 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer and return it to the pan. Whisk in the crème fraîche to thicken the sauce slightly.
Beverage pairing: Crack open a Duvel, a Schneider Aventinus, or a Stone Smoked Porter.
A Cabernet Franc from France’s Loire Valley would also match the savory-sweet components of this dish very nicely. Look for an example from the ripe 2003 vintage, and from regions like Chinon or Saumur-Champigny. We really like the 2003 Charles Joguet Chinon “Clos de la Cure.”
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