The best of friends – pork and apple is a combination that dates back to medieval times. Predating apple sauce (which originated during the mid-1700s), apples were commonly paired with meat, renowned for their acidity and tartness that would cut through the fattiness of pork, duck, or goose, ultimately aiding digestion. Apples are still often paired with duck and goose, but pork is by-far the most popular. This pork chop recipe celebrates the age-old combination, with the apples prepared and served in a more natural state, bolstered by some blue cheese, sage, and honey. Apple sauce is fine and has its place, but the apples’ natural tartness works well here, even though they’re slightly caramelised, with sweetness heightened by a drizzle of honey that’s added towards the end of the cooking time.
All taken from the loin of the pig, pork chops are available in a variety of cuts. While any pork chops will work for this recipe, I’d strongly advise using either bone-in pork chops or cutlets, ideally double cut and with the fat left intact. Bone-in chops cook differently than boneless, with the bone helping to retain much of the pork’s moisture, making them far more forgiving, considering chops can easily become dry and unenjoyable – especially when cooked in the oven. It’s also fine to eat high quality pork slightly rare, with a thermometer reading around 135F at the thickest part. So in addition to buying the best quality pork you can afford, I’d also suggest using an instant-read digital thermometer, although it’s not absolutely crucial.
Accompanied by thick-sliced caramelised red onions and roasted new potatoes with additional wedges of apple, this pork chop recipe serves two but can easily be scaled up. Avoid cooking more than two pork chops in one pan, however.
- 2 Free-range bone-in pork chops ideally double-cut with a thick layer of fat
- 3 Apples
- 400g New potatoes (approx. quantity varies based on preference)
- 6 cloves Garlic peeled and lightly crushed
- 3 sprigs Thyme leaves picked (or 2tsp dried)
- 4 leaves Sage finely sliced
- 2 slices Soft blue cheese (approx. 75g)
- Honey to taste
- Oil for cooking
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- Sugar to taste (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
- Wash the potatoes and cut the larger ones in half. Do not peel. Add to a roasting pan with a drizzle of oil and a generous pinch of salt. Put the pan in the oven while you core and slice two of the apples into thick wedges (reserving the other for the pork). Add these to the pan with the potatoes, alongside the garlic cloves, thyme, and a smattering of black pepper. Cook for 45 minutes, turning once.
- Make 2cm cuts along the pork’s fat, down to the sinew, to prevent the chops from curling and to encourage the fat to render properly. Pat dry with kitchen roll and season with salt.
- Melt a knob of butter in a small saucepan, with a dash of oil, and slice red onion into centimetre-thick slices. Add the onion to the pan and cook on a low heat, stirring regularly until soft and translucent.
- Heat a heavy-based frying pan and add a splash of oil. Once screaming hot, add the pork chops and decrease the heat to medium-high. Cook the chops for 3-5 minutes (dependent on size) until golden brown on the underside. Don’t check too often as this will prevent caramelisation. Decrease the heat to low and cook until the other side begins to colour. To render the fat, hold the chops, fat-side down and cook over a low heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer the chops to a baking tray and place on the top shelf of the oven.
- In the pan the chops were cooked in, add a knob of butter (approx. 100g) and add the thinner slices of cored apple. Fry on each side for around 2 minutes, until golden. Remove from the pan and rest on a plate.
- Stir the onions and increase the heat. Season with salt and add two cloves of crushed or finely-chopped garlic. (Garlic puree is also fine). You can also add a few teaspoons of sugar, to taste, to speed up the caramelisation process.
- Drizzle the pork chops with a generous amount of honey, plus a slice of blue cheese, a handful of finely-sliced sage, and the apple slices. Return to the oven and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese melts and the pork is cooked. (It’s fine to eat high quality pork slightly rare, with a thermometer reading around 135F at the thickest part).
- Rest the pork for five minutes before serving with the caramelised red onions and the roasted potatoes and apple.