Recently, Owen’s taken to carrying a picture of this little lady everywhere around our house. Seriously, whether he’s playing blocks or climbing on top of the couch, he finds a way to sneak this picture into the mix, eventually setting it down on his bookshelf, more loved and slightly more crumpled.
Owen has a crush…of sorts. Whaaaa?
And recently I stumbled across this article, which naturally led to me to describe, in detail, to Eric, the depths of my love for JTT in the early nineties. I mean…he wore overalls, I wore overalls. We were clearly meant to be. Eric’s response was to comment on his height…which, at present is 5’5″, which I know because I actually just googled “How tall is JTT now?”
While that crush might be over, I have a new one in my life: The Opal Apple.
You may be thinking…”O-pal-eeease, Liz, you were just recently telling us about your undying love for the Honeycrisp.” But hear me out.
I had heard about Opal apples before, but, friends, I am just trying them now, and I’m more than a little in love. First of all, look at that color. Beautiful, right? Except that golden apples always make me think about eating mushy socks – but not these. No, Opal apples have got it going on in the crunch department. Plus, they’re slightly less sweet and slightly more tangy than your average Honeycrisp, which kind of puts them over the top for me. Sweet with some serious pizzazz.
Like I said, I’m crushing right now.
I had the pleasure this week of working on a project with Opal Apples, a company that not only sends out these delicoius apples nationwide from their orchards in Washington but also is doing some legitimate good. Opal Apples supports some really great programs that are centered on youth-based initiatives which seek to contribute to their communities with projects in nutrition, agriculture, and sustainability.
Plus, they sent me some apples, and I have been
recipe-testing chowing my way through them not unlike an undisciplined goat. However, somehow I stopped myself from eating all of them straight out of the fruit bowl and made one of our favorite recipes to date.
If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you probably are already aware of my affinity for pairing fruit with meat. So I started thinking that the sweet-tanginess of these apples would make the perfect base to a stuffing. So, the apples got added to onion, sautéed, and then mixed up with some cooked wild rice and toasted pecans. And then I ate two-thirds of the stuffing with a spoon.
I thought I would just bake the stuffed pork chops after searing them but then my crazy brain started thinking about maple-glaze. Which turned into a maple-balsamic love story.
I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed these stuffed pork chops. Every bite is interseting, both in flavor and texture. I hope you’ll give the recipe a try, and I also hope you go out and buy some Opal apples, because I saved the best for last: These apples are in season from December-April, just when you thought fresh apples were hibernating for winter. They aren’t carried by all grocery stores, so check before heading out…or don’t, so there’s more for me.
Disclosure: I received compensation from Opal Apples for recipe development purposes, but the love affair is all my own.
(recipe by Carpé Season)
This delicious sutffed pork chop recipe comes together pretty quickly despite a longer list of ingredients.
1 c. cooked wild rice*
¾ c. pecans, chopped & toasted
1 tbsp. butter
1 ½ Opal apples, cored and diced
¾ c. (about 1 medium) onion, diced
salt and pepper
(*Start with ½ c. uncooked wild rice - this will yield about 1 ½ c. cooked.)
4 thick boneless pork chops (around 1-inch thick)
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. butter
toothpicks (at least 12)
⅔ c. balsamic vinegar
½ c. maple syrup
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 sprig fresh thyme
Prepare the Stuffing:
Cook the wild rice according to package directions or using the stovetop method here.
To toast the pecans, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the pecans and toast for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until nuts are beginning to brown and fragrant. Remove to a plate to cool.
In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apple and onion, and cook for about 4 minutes, until apples just begin to soften. Remove to a bowl and stir in the cooled pecans, cooked wild rice, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. (Wipe out your pan of any apple and onion bits with a paper towel; you can use it later. Fewer dishes for the win!)
Stuff and Sear the Pork Chops:
Remove any excess fat from pork chops and pat them dry.
Using a sharp knife (I like to use a shorter paring knife), create a pocket. I like to place my palm on top of the chop and insert my knife about 2 inches into the chop, parallel to my work surface. I then saw my knife from my insertion towards either end of the chop, making sure to leave one long end of the pork chop intact. You want it to open like a book when you’re done. (See pictures above!)
(If you don’t get a cut exactly in the middle, or you accidentally pierce the top or bottom, don’t worry. You can still make it work, using toothpicks!)
Spoon just under a ½ c. of stuffing* into each pocket (more or less depending on chop size) and close securely with toothpicks by threading each toothpick - up, down, up (like you're pinning something to sew).
[Reserve remaining stuffing to top the pork chops with when serving.]
Sprinkle both sides of the closed pork chops with salt and pepper.
Heat the butter in the same large pan as before over medium-high heat. Once butter is hot, add seasoned pork chops and sear until browned, about 3 minutes on each side. (Don’t crowd the pork chops; do this in stages or in two separate pans if need be).
(*Because you will use the remaining stuffing to top the pork chops later, be careful not to have anything (hand/utensil) that has touched the raw pork get into the stuffing.)
Bake the Pork Chops:
Preheat oven to 350*. Spray a llarge baking dish (large enough so that chops can be in a single layer; I used a 13x9" pan) with cooking spray. Place seared pork chops in the bottom of the dish; cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
While the pork chops bake, heat balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, garlic, and thyme in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer rapidly (uncovered) for about 15 minutes, stirring VERY frequently, until glaze has reduced by about half and has thickened. Be careful not to let it boil again (as it simmers), especially not letting it boil over because it will make a huge mess! Remove from burner and set aside.
Glaze the Pork Chops:
After the pork chops have baked for the 30 minutes, remove from oven and discard foil cover. Carefully drain any liquid from the bottom of the baking dish. Then spoon about ½ of the glaze over the chops (using a spoon to spread over each chop). The glaze should drizzle to the bottom of the pan; give the pan a good shake to distribute it over the bottom of the pan and return to the oven, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Flip the pork chops over; spoon an additional (app.) ¼ c. glaze over the top of the pork chops, shaking again to distribute glaze over the bottom evenly) and bake for 5 additional minutes, keeping a close eye on them so they don’t begin to burn.
Remove toothpicks. Serve pork chops with (reheated) remaining stuffing served on top of each pork chop. We like to eat these with mashed potatoes and a vegetable side.