Pork Chops with Smashed Apples and Sweet Potatoes in Cider Sauce

I like cooking with ingredients that are in-season and local. Over the past month or so, I’ve received a lot of apples in my weekly CSA veggie box and now I have a crisper-drawer full of them. I keep thinking I’ll make apple sauce (and still might) but tonight I decided to use some of them as a side dish for boneless pork chops. I love the combination of apples and sweet potatoes (which I’ve also started receiving over the past few weeks), so I started with this and then put together the rest of the meal.

I decided to marinate the pork chops in apple cider this afternoon, brown the chops, then reduce the cider marinade into a sauce for the pork. I was afraid that just using cider would make the sauce too sweet (especially along side the apples and sweet potatoes), so when I finished the sauce I added some white wine and dijon mustard. I stuck with the sweet-salty theme when making the sweet potatoes and apples – I cooked a couple of pieces of peppered bacon, then used some of the drippings to to start cooking the sweet potatoes. I then cooked the potatoes and apples with more apple cider and a bit of calvados and served them topped with the crumbled bacon. There wasn’t much bacon, but every time I got a bite of the salty bacon with the sweet potatoes and apples it was a great surprise.

For the pork chops, place in a gallon zip-top bag:

  • 4 boneless pork loin chops (about 7-8 ounces each)
  • 1.5 cups fresh apple cider (preferably from the refrigerated section of your grocery)

Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least several hours, turning the bag occasionally to make sure that all of the meat is in the marinade. Remove from the marinade (but reserve the cider for the sauce), pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and coarsely ground pepper.

In a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat over medium-high heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the pork chops and brown on both sides (about 5 minutes per side), then remove to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. At this point, I cleaned my pan because the cider left on the chops had burned onto the bottom – if you don’t have any burned pieces you can just wipe out your pan.

Add the reserved apple cider marinade to the pan along with:

  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
  • 2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  • salt to tast

Bring to a boil and cook over medium-high heat until thickened and reduced – about 15 minutes.  Add the pork chops and any accumulated juices back to the pan and continue to cook until the pork chops reach an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees. Remove the chops from the pan and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Continue to cook the sauce over medium-high heat while the pork rests so that it continues to thicken.

Meanwhile, before you start cooking the pork chops start the sweet potatoes and apples. In a large non-stick skillet cook until crisp:

  • 2 slices of thick-cut bacon (I used peppered bacon from a local farm and it was delicious)

Remove the bacon from the pan and pour off all but about 2 teaspoons of the drippings.  Add to the pan:

  • 1.5 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks about 1-inch long by about 1/4-inch.

Cook briefly in the bacon drippings and then add:

  • apple cider – I used about 1.5 cups total, but added it about 1/2 cup at a time allowing it to thicken and turn into a glaze before adding more – keep a close eye on the sweet potatoes so they don’t burn as the liquid is absorbed.

Cook until they are starting to get tender – about 15 minutes. Then add:

  • 1.5 pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges (I prepared them earlier so I tossed them in the juice from two limes to keep them from turning brown). You can use any kind you like. I used a variety including granny smith, golden delicious and gala.
  • 1/2 cup Calvados or any apple brandy.

Continue cooking over medium heat until the apples are very tender and can be smashed with the back of a wooden spoon, and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and serve, topped with crumbled bacon.

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