The smell of pork chops flavored with toasted fennel sizzling on a stovetop always brings up cozy memories of family meals, me rushing to finish my homework in time for dinner my mom clanked away in the kitchen. No matter how busy everyone was, Mom brought us together at the end of each day over our dinner plates.
Here the sweet, spiced apples balance out the savory flavor of the pork. Any variety of apple will work here; cooked slowly with butter and cinnamon, the apples will melt in your mouth and leave a trace of syrup on the plate that begs to be wiped up with a forkful of pork.
FOR PORK CHOPS
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
Four 3/4-to-1 inch-thick bone-in center-cut pork chops
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
FOR THE SAUTEED APPLES
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup Medeira wine
Toast the fennel seeds in a large skillet over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a plate to cool, then grind the seeds in a mortar with a pestle. Stir the salt and pepper to make a dry rub. Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel and coat the chops on both sides with the dry rub. Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and sear until they are brown, about 3 minutes. Turn over a brown well on the second side, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. In the same skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apples, shallots, and cinnamon and saute until the apples and shallots soften and caramelize, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the apple cider and Maidera and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, return the pork chops and apples on a plate, loosely cover with a foil, and set aside. Keep cooking the juices in the pan until they are reduced a bit and shiny. Plate the pork chops with the apples, drizzle with sauce, and serve.
Apples with Dipping Sauce
When I go apple picking, my favorite tradition is to pack along with an assortment of dipping sauces. After climbing and snipping and harvesting my apple loot, I lay out a blanket, slice into the bounty, and have an apple tasting right there in the orchard, With the bright colors of the apples, the little wooden pairing knives, and mason jars of sauces, it’s as picture-perfect a scene as it is delicious.
BOURBON CARAMEL SAUCE
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons bourbon
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Place over medium heat and cook until the mixture begins to boil and turns deep amber colors, about 6 minutes. Add the butter to the pan and stir until it melts into the syrup, about 6 minutes. Add the butter to the pan and stir until it melts into the syrup. Take the pan off the heat and slowly add the cream, stirring constantly, until smooth. Stir in the bourbon. Pour the sauce into a heatproof jar and cool to room temperature. To serve, dip fresh apple slices into the caramel and sprinkle with flaky salt (I like Maldon or fleur de sel.) The sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
CHOCOLATE HONEY SAUCE
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream, chocolate, and honey. Place over low heat and stir constantly until chocolate is melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour the sauce into a heatproof jar and cool to room temperature. To serve, dip fresh apple slices into the chocolate sauce. The sauce can be made ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.