Friday, August 11, 2006

Braised Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions, Raisins & Pine Nuts

The other day at Costco we picked up one of those mega-packs of boneless loin pork chops. I'm always at a loss what to do with so many; it can be a bit overwhelming, as many of you know. Geez, there are only two of us in the house. How much pork can a person consume?

I've had this recipe for Braised Pork Chops with Caramelized Onion, Raisins & Pine Nut Ragut that's been sitting around long enough, so I decided to give it a try. The recipe came from the California Raisin Marketing Board website, which has a rather nice recipe database with a comprehensive search engine, including lots of recipes by well-known restaurant chefs.

Let me say right off here that when I opened the package of chops, I was shocked by how thick they were. There's no way to tell without unwrapping them to know, but each one is almost like a mini pork roast -- at least 2 inches thick, some even more. So I halved them to make thinner chops and then brined them as follows:

6 cups water
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup table salt

Stir this until dissolved well, add the chops, refrigerate for about an hour or hour and a half, and then drain and rinse the meat and pat dry.

The recipe as written has the meat browned, then braised in the oven. I didn't want to turn on the oven for an hour (it's already 109 degrees outside); so I decided to try making it in the slow cooker. Well, let me tell you this turned out great, in many ways. The flavors were balanced, a nice sweet and sour tang; the ragut of onions, raisins and toasted pine nuts was just right with the mild-flavored pork; and best of all, dinner was ready and waiting when we decided to have it. All the clean up was done well ahead of dinnertime, so all we had to do was the dinner dishes. Easy, Easy. Here's the recipe, with my notes as I made it yesterday.

Braised Pork Chops with Caramelized Onion, Raisin And Pine Nut Ragu
by: Chef James Perillo

• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 6 center cut pork chops, seasoned well
• Salt and pepper

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 large yellow onions, (I sliced them with food processor)
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves only, chopped (used 1 teaspoon dry)
• 1/4 cup cider vinegar
• 1 cup California raisins
• 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
• 2 cups chicken stock (used only 1 cup in slow cooker)
• Salt and pepper

Heat a heavy-bottom saute pan very hot, add olive oil and sear pork chops until golden brown on both sides. Remove chops and set aside. In the same pan, add butter and onions and saute until caramelized. Add bay leaves and thyme; deglaze with cider vinegar. Reduce by half. Add California raisins, pine nuts, and chicken stock and bring to simmer. Place pork chops in a buttered casserole dish and spoon ragu on top. Cover casserole dish and place in 350°F oven for approximately 1 hour. Check to make sure pork chops are tender.
Serves: 6

As made on 8-10-06:

Caramelized the onions first. Added 1 t. dry thyme and bay leaves along with raisins and toasted pine nuts. Deglazed and reduced with the vinegar. Emptied pan into a bowl.

Browned 6 brined boneless chops, seasoned only with black pepper.

Set chops in bottom of crockpot. Topped with onion ragout. Added only 1 cup stock.

Set on low and will check after 4 hours.

Next time I'll check the dish after 3 1/2 hours; they'll be even moister.

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