From the Harvest: cider-brined pork chops

Most people go to farmers' markets in search of that perfect tomato or apple, meats are also sold at many of them. That's right, beef, chicken, pork and even bison can be found in the stalls at most farmers' markets in the area. Pork is among my favorites. Fatty, lean, smoked or plain, I can eat pork in countless ways. I'm even a fan of the parts that most supermarkets don't sell, such as the ears, jowls, feet and tails (which all can be bought at the farmers' market), but I'm a sucker for the classic pork chop. This recipe is a classic French dish that is slanted towards the fall. The brine, a salt and sugar mixture, infuses cider into the meat while the mustard sauce is a contrast of creamy and piquant flavoring. The use of two types of Dijon, creamy and grainy, is the key to the sauce.

Cider-brined pork chops with Dijon cream sauce

Makes: 4 servings

4 pork chops 1/2-inch thick

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 brown sugar

2 pints (32 ounces by weight) apple cider

32 ounces by weight ice

1 bunch sage, whole (stems and all)

1 ounce vegetable oil

1/4 cup minced shallots

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup apple brandy

1/4 cup grainy Dijon mustard

1/4 cup smooth Dijon mustard

1/2 cup minced crimini mushrooms

salt and pepper

Mix the brandy and half the cider in a container and set aside. In a large pot, heat the rest of the cider, salt, brown sugar and sage and bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes. Place the ice in a large pot or container and pour the hot brine into it. Stir the brine until it becomes cold (it's OK if all of the ice melts). Place the chops into the brine for 2-3 hours. Remove chops from brine, dry with paper towels and set aside. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the oil. Pat the chops dry one last time, salt and pepper them and add to the pan. Cook five minutes per side. If you have to do the chops in two batches make sure not to burn the bottom of the pan. Remove chops from pan, turn heat down to medium low and add shallots and cook for a minute or until they start to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to soften. Add the cider and brandy mixture and turn the heat up to high. Bring to a boil while scraping all of the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Reduce liquid by 3/4 until cider is almost a syrup. Stir in mustards, cream and mix until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, turn heat off and add the parsley. Serve the sauce on the side or return the chops to the pan and coat. Serve immediately.

Tip: If you have extra sauce leftover then steamed or baked cauliflower is perfect to spoon it over. Potatoes and broccoli work well too.

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