Maple & Black Pepper Pork Chops

March 30 - Maple & Black Pepper Pork Chops with Grill Roasted Baby Potatoes & Salad
March 31 - Apple Butter Pulled Chicken with Broccoli Slaw and yam fries
April 1 - Boy worked late, just had a couple of breakfast tacos and some roasted yams

When I was planning out the meals for the week I knew I wanted to used the gorgeous naturally raised pork chops we bought at the Brickworks Market a few weeks ago.  I also knew I wanted to make something with maple syrup since we're at the height of sugaring season and I missed all the maple events last weekend.  I was going to do a salad with some sort of maple vinaigrette but in looking for pork chop ideas I came across this one over on Eggs On Sunday.  Not only is this a new to me blog, which I'm always excited to discover  but I loved the sound of this dish and is seemed like the perfect way to treat my lovely local chops.

One thing to note, I let my glaze cook a bit too long so that it almost candied when poured on the chops.  It was tasty but made them kind hard to cut and eat.  I was ready to call the dish a fail, based on the way I cooked it, but the Boy said absolutely not because the flavors worked so well.  I'm bummed I won't be ab;e to try this one out again until next year, but it will absolutely be bookmarked and added to the regular rotation then.  And if I ever doubted the benefits to buying locally, naturally raised meat (which I didn't) these chops converted me.  They had so much flavor and were so tender I would have happily ate them with just some salt and pepper.  I know naturally raised meats are often more expensive, but I promise it's worth it.  Even if it means smaller portions of meat, which most of us should be doing anyway, give it a try.

Maple Black Pepper Pork Chops
adapted from Eggs on Sunday
serves 2

2 pork chops, bone-in or boneless (about 1" thick with some nice marbling)
1 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder
1 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/2 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 Tbsps cider vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (Grade 2 or Dark Amber)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Pat the pork chops dry and season them well with the 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt. Rub the salt into the surface of the meat.
3. Preheat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the 2 tablespoons of oil
4. Place the chops into the pan. Leave them to brown on this side for a few minutes. They’re ready to flip when the meat releases from the bottom of the pan when you gently lift up an edge, be patient let them get golden brown.
5. Flip the chops over, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of one of the chops, and put the whole pan into the oven to finish cooking.
6. When the chops reach 145 degrees F, take the pan out of the oven and place the chops on a plate. Cover with foil and set aside.
7. Return the pan to the stove (be careful of the hot handle, if you read my grilled cheese post over on Piccante Dolce, you'll know why I need to add this). You should have about 1 tablespoon of fat remaining in the pan; if there’s a lot more, pour it off before putting it back on the stove. Add the shallot, thyme, and another 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook over medium-high heat until the shallot is softening and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.
8. Add the vinegar and stir with a wooden spoon to loosen the bits of fond on the bottom of the pan. Simmer for another 1-2 minutes, then add the maple syrup and ground peppercorns.
9. Simmer the sauce for about 5-7 minutes, until it’s been reduced by about half, to a syrupy/glaze consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
10. Spoon over the pork to serve.