French-style Pork Chops with Apples and Calvados by Tom
Continuing on our journey through "French foods", we found this recipe in the January-February 2015 issue of "Cook's Illustrated". French food is known for its marvelous sauces, and this recipe is no exception. I have made it twice now and it is really, really good. But I have to admit, it is a time consuming recipe and one that requires attention throughout the sauce making process.
But the effort is really worth it.
French-Style Pork Chops with Apples and Calvados
(from Cook's Illustrated, Jan/Feb 2015)
4 bone-in thick cut pork chops
4 Gala or Golden Delicious apples, cored - two will be used to make the sauce, two to cook with the pork chops
2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
3 shallots, sliced
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup Calvados, this is a French brandy made principally in the Normandy region
1 3/4 cups apple cider
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus 1/4 teaspoon minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2-1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Black pepper, ground
(Note: The ingredients are for four servings, but I made ours for two and adjusted the ingredients accordingly.)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
First step is to pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel and then generously salt and pepper them. Cover them with loosely with Saran wrap and put into the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Now we start to make the sauce. Core two of the apples and cut into approximately 1/2" small pieces. Slice the shallots as well.
Cook the bacon in a medium saucepan over medium heat. You want to render the fat from the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5-7 minutes. Next add the shallots, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook these with the bacon until the shallots are soft, about 3-4 minutes. You need to stir constantly to insure the bacon does not burn.
Now the fun part! Remove the pan from the heat and add 1/4 cup Calvados. Let the Calvados warm up for just a few seconds. Then with a long match or lighter, ignite the Calvados vapors over the pan. BE CAREFUL when you are doing this as it will ignite quickly. Swirl the contents of the pan around to evenly distribute the flames. When the flames subside after 30-60 seconds, cover the pan for 15 seconds to insure the flame is out.
Then we get to do it again! Add the remaining Calvados and repeat the flambéing. You may need to heat the pan a little if you have trouble getting the second flambé to ignite. After the flames have subsided, cover the pan again just to insure the fire is out.
Put the saucepan back on the burner and adjust heat to medium-high. Add the apple cider and chicken broth.
Now add the thyme sprigs, chopped apple pieces and butter.
Bring the mixture to a rapid simmer. Cook for about 30-35 minutes until the apples are very soft and tender. You will need to stir this mixture frequently, but not continuously. Just make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. You will cook this mixture down until there is only about 2 cups of liquid left.
When the apples are soft enough, it will look like you have made chunky apple sauce. Take the saucepan off the heat and cover. Let stand until after the pork chops are in the oven.
Next step is to take your remaining apples, core them and slice into 1/2" rounds.
Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator. Pat them dry. Add half of the vegetable oil to a 12" skillet and heat the oil until very hot. Next carefully add the pork chops to the hot skillet. Brown on each side for about 4 minutes.
When the pork chops are done browning, put them back onto the plate. Next sauté the apple rings for about 1-2 minutes a side. They will start to brown a little.
In a baking dish, put a little vegetable oil on the bottom. Now place the apple slices on the bottom of the baking dish. Put the sautéed pork chops on top of the apples. Put the baking dish into the preheated 300 degree oven and bake for about 12-17 minutes depending on the thickness of your pork chops. Cook until a meat thermometer registers 135-140 degrees.
While the pork is baking, strain the apple mixture through a sieve into a bowl or large measuring cup. I used a 4 cup measuring cup to do the straining. Push the mixture through the sieve with a rubber spatula. Be sure to scrape the underside of the sieve into your sauce.
As an added treat, try tasting what is left over in your sieve. I found it to be very tasty!
Your sauce will be quite thick and emulsified. This is where you now add the apple cider vinegar and the minced thyme. Plus salt and pepper to taste.
When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
While the pork chops were resting, we made French style green beans to go along with our protein.
Plate the apple rings on the dish and put the pork chop on top of them. Add the vegetable.