How To Enhance Pork Chops With Juicy Stuffing
Pork Chop With Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing
I learned this brilliant pork chop stuffing technique many years ago from Cook’s Illustrated, a magazine for serious food nerds who love poring over recipes that have been scientifically tested, dissected, blind-tasted and tested again, to arrive at a foolproof version that would stand the test of time and never let you down.
Pork chops are perfectly enjoyable on their own, but they greatly benefit from stuffing, which gives them a nice burst of juicy flavor and enhances their texture. Look for a “rib chop,” a cut from the rib cage; it has the bone off to the side instead of in the middle, and with a big enough area of meat to stuff. It should be about 1 ½–2 inches high.
As for the stuffing recipe here, it is a loose adaptation of one from the magazine. I think of stuffing as free-form and as a way to use ingredients you have on hand: some nuts, dried fruit soaked in your favorite liquor, herbs currently growing in your garden, orange juice and mustard, maybe a handful of Parmesan if you have it. If you don’t have brandy, use port or rum. If you like dried apricots instead of cranberries, use those. Substitute thyme with rosemary; it will taste great.
The idea is to end up with a sticky, jam-like texture instead of a loose and crumbly one, because that would be more difficult to stuff. The best trick about this recipe is using a small piece of citrus peel to plug the hole in the meat—it prevents the stuffing from spilling out and infuses the meat at the same time.
- Serves 2
- 2 bone-in pork rib chops, 2 inches thick (about 10–12 ounces each)
- 3 cups water
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons salt, plus more for browning
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup brandy
- 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup red onion, peeled, finely diced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- ¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed (about 1 medium orange; peel saved)
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup or sugar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Cut the pocket in the pork chops: Insert a sharp knife through the middle side of the chop until it touches the bone. Carefully create an opening about 2 inches wide. Move the knife slowly and horizontally from right to left, creating a large pocket.
- Pour the water and vinegar into a bowl, and dissolve the salt in it. Add the pork chops and make sure they’re fully submerged. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic food wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- While the pork chops are brining, prepare the stuffing. Place the cranberries in a small glass and cover with the brandy. Soak for 15 minutes.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts and dry toast them, shaking the skillet frequently, until fragrant and brown in spots, about 3 minutes. Set aside. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel.
- Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5–7 minutes. Stir in the thyme, orange juice, maple syrup and Dijon mustard. Add the cranberries with the brandy and the walnuts. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and place a rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan on the lower-middle rack.
- Remove the pork chops from the brine, rinse, and pat them dry with paper towels. Stuff each pork chop with one half of the stuffing. Trim the reserved orange peel to two 1x2-inch rectangles. Insert the peel into the pocket of each pork chop to seal it and prevent the stuffing from spilling out. Salt and pepper each pork chop on both sides.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and cook until browned, without moving them, about 4 minutes. Flip the chops and brown on the other side, 3–4 minutes more.
- Using tongs, transfer the chops from the skillet to the preheated baking sheet in the oven, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the stuffing reads 135 degrees, about 10–15 minutes. Flip the chops halfway through cooking. Transfer to a plate, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with the juices poured over the chops.