Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stuffed Pork Chops

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I know you've all had those times when you wonder just what to make for dinner, wanting something a little "different," but knowing that you really should be using all that frozen meat that you have in the freezer.  Who's with me on this one?   So this recipe came from the freezer, the pantry, and my little herb garden out back.

Besides all that, pork chops tend to get a bad rap.  Like chicken, they can be a boring, blank slate.  Did I mention that I wanted something out of the ordinary?  I have been wanting to stuff some pork chops for a long time.  Recently, we bought an entire huge pork tenderloin, cut it into individual servings of a generous thickness, and vacuum-sealed them in packs of two.  I have to say, from an economical standpoint - that is definitely the way to go!  Much less expensive that way than buying individually cut pork loin chops.   So on the way to work in the morning, I was mentioning this to my best friend.  I listed several "stuffing ideas," and she immediately picked cornbread and tasso out of the lineup!  Sounded like a winner to me... so here we go!

Click for Printable Recipe
Ingredients:  The list may look a bit long, but aside from the tasso, chances are these are mostly staple ingredients that you have in the house already.  To find/order tasso, see Food Nerd Notes at the bottom of the post.
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 6 (1 1/2 inch to 2-inch) pork loin chops (boneless)
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup tasso, diced (or highly seasoned, thick cut smoked ham)
  • 1/2 cup diced celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped sage leaves
  • 2 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 skillet of cooked cornbread (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup diced apples
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth for dressing
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth for making pan gravy
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Step-by-Step:
Steps you can prep ahead:  Make the cornbread - brine the chops - chop veggies and herbs.  Cornbread:  Begin your prep by making a skillet of your favorite cornbread.  Or if you have cornbread leftover, this would be a perfect use for it!   Then just set it aside and allow to cool.  
1 skillet of cornbread (made from 1 box mix)
Brine:  Whisk salt and sugar together into 2 quarts of cold water. 
2 quarts cold water
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 Tbsp sugar
Add pork chops (thawed) and cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour.  While brining the pork and allowing the cornbread to cook and cool, chop all the veggies and herbs.

Now let's cook! In a heavy bottomed skillet, add about a tablespoon of the olive oil and begin to saute the tasso. 
1 Tbsp EVOO

1/2 cup tasso, diced into small cubes
Add in the chopped celery, onions, and after they start cooking down, add the garlic and a tablespoon of butter. Cook until the onions and celery are soft and translucent. 
1/2 cup onions, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp butter
Add a teaspoon of kosher salt and some black pepper to taste to season up this vegetable mix.
1/2 tsp kosher salt + black pepper
Add in the chopped herbs when the veggies are almost done, and saute until fragrant. Remove from heat and let them cool a bit.
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp chopped sage
2 Tbsp chopped parsleySet aside to cool.
My pork has been brining for an hour now, so remove them and pat dry. 


In a large bowl, crumble the cornbread. Add chopped apples, the cooked vegetables, and 1/2 cup of chicken broth. It will probably still look "dry" to you, but trust me on this one. You don't want it overly soggy at the end! Mix well.

2/3 cup apples, diced

To the brined and dried pork, use a sharp knife to make a pocket in each which extends deep into the meat. You want to leave the back and the edges intact to make an envelope. You also want all the borders to be uniform so they will all cook the same. 
Stuff each chop with 1/2 cup of stuffing. It will probably look like it won't fit... but it will compress! 

Use toothpicks to secure the openings so your stuffing won't come out. 
Season each stuffed chop with kosher salt and black pepper.

I would have had my husband grill these, but he happened to be under the weather... so I "grilled" them with my trusty grill pan! On medium high heat, I preheated about a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan first until the oil was really hot.  If it makes you more comfortable, insert a digital thermometer into the meat portion of one of the thicker chops. You are going to want your internal temperature to be 145 degrees for the pork. Careful to not put the thermometer into just the dressing! I grilled them about 7 minutes per side, and also turned them on the "cut" side for a minute or so to get some nice color on the "third" side that I created with the pocket.  

Remember - if your meat is not dry, you will NOT get a good "sear" on it!
You essentially have three sides to the meat now.  The top, the bottom, and the side that we created by making the pocket and adding the stuffing.  Don't forget to grill that "third" side!  Mine rested pretty well on that side.  Set them on "end" using long-handled tongs.  This will also make any stuffing that may be peeking out get a bit of a crispy, crunchy edge.  Yum.

Remove the chops to a plate, and allow them to rest for 5 minutes prior to serving them. This will allow the juices to redistribute rather than running out all over your plate and giving you dry meat.
After removing the chops, you will notice that the pan will be pretty messy looking!  This is a GOOD thing! 
Deglaze the pan with about 1/2 cup of your chicken broth. You could additionally add 1 Tbsp cold butter to make it silky.
1/2 cup chicken broth
All those stuck-on "bits" of food in the bottom of the pan (called "fond") will release, combine with the broth, and make a great little pan gravy. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. 
After you cook it down a couple of minutes (the chops are resting anyway, so why not?), pour that gravy over the chops. You have just elevated your chops from really nice to great! 
Go back and look at the "grilled only" chops versus the ones with the gravy.  See how much nicer they look with that savory gravy on them?  :)  There was a ton of flavor in that pan that you do not want to lose!
Garnish with extra herbs left over from making the stuffing.  I served these stuffed pork loin chops with rice pilaf, stewed apples, and steamed broccoli.  Oh.. and don't forget to remove the toothpicks!
 









Food Nerd Notes - Tasso is a specialty of south Louisiana cuisine.  It is a spicy, peppery version of smoked pork made from the shoulder butt.  The butt, which will weigh 7 to 8 pounds, is sliced across the grain into thick pieces.  These are dredged in a salt cure for a few hours, then rinsed, rubbed with a spice mixture containing Cayenne pepper and garlic, and hot-smoked until cooked through. Though tasso may be eaten on its own, it is more often used as part of a flavor base for stews or braised vegetables.  It is used in dishes ranging from pasta to crab cakes, soup to gravy. Appropriate to its roots, tasso is most often found in recipes of southern or Cajun/Creole origin.

The tasso used in this recipe can be found at Day's Smokehouse in Watson, Louisiana.  In case you are wondering... yes, they do ship their products!  http://dayssmokehouse.com/.  Other alternatives could be Pancetta with extra spices add, or Spanish chorizo, or good old bacon!  If you use another type of ham, use one that is very smoky and add extra spices. 

Written Directions:
Steps you can prep ahead: Make the cornbread - brine the chops - chop veggies and Cornbread:  Begin your prep by making a skillet of your favorite cornbread. Or if you have cornbread leftover, this would be a perfect use for it! Then just set it aside and allow to cool. Brine: Whisk salt and sugar together into 2 quarts of cold water. Add pork chops (thawed) and cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove the pork chops from the bring and dry them well! While brining the pork and allowing the cornbread to cook and cool, chop all the veggies and herbs.
herbs.

Now let's cook! In a heavy bottomed skillet, add about a tablespoon of the olive oil and begin to saute the tasso. Add in the chopped celery, onions, and after they start cooking down, add the garlic. Cook until the onions and celery are soft and translucent. Add a teaspoon of kosher salt and some black pepper to taste to season up this vegetable mix. Add in the chopped herbs when the veggies are almost done, and saute until fragrant. Remove from heat and let them cool a bit.

In a large bowl, crumble the cornbread. Add chopped apples, the cooked vegetables, and 1/2 cup of chicken broth. It will probably still look "dry" to you, but trust me on this one. You don't want it overly soggy at the end! Mix well.

To the pork, which you have removed from the brine and patted dry thoroughly, make a pocket in each which extends deep into the meat. You want to leave the back and the edges intact to make an envelope. You also want all the borders to be uniform so they will all cook the same. Stuff each chop with 1/2 cup of stuffing. It will probably look like it won't fit... but it will compress! Use toothpicks to secure the openings so your stuffing won't come out. Season each stuffed chop with kosher salt and black pepper.

I would have had my husband grill these, but he happened to be under the weather... so I "grilled" them with my trusty grill pan! On medium high heat, I preheated about a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan first until the oil was really hot. I also inserted my digital thermometer into the meat portion of one of the thicker chops. You are going to want your internal temperature to be 145 degrees for the pork. Careful to not put the thermometer into just the dressing! I grilled them about 7 minutes per side, and also turned them on the "cut" side for a minute or so to get some nice color on the "third" side that I created with the pocket.

Remove the chops to a plate, and allow to rest for 5 minutes prior to serving them. This will allow the juices to redistribute rather than running out all over your plate and giving you dry meat. After removing the chops, deglaze the pan with about 1/2 cup of chicken broth. (You could also add 1 Tbsp cold butter to make it silky) All those stuck-on "bits" of food in the bottom of the pan (called "fond") will release, combine with the broth, and make a great pan gravy. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. After you cook it down a couple of minutes (the chops are resting anyway, so why not?), pour that gravy over the chops. You have just elevated your chops from really nice to great! Garnish with extra herbs left over from making the dressing. I served these with a rice pilaf, stewed apples, and steamed broccoli.

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3 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. She was too busy to be bothered on this particular occasion.

      Delete
  2. This looks fantastic. I can't wait to make it.

    ReplyDelete

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