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Cider-Braised Pork Chops with Apples

Pork today is far leaner than it was even a decade ago, as breeding practices and feeds produce leaner animals. It is a richer source of the B vitamin thiamin than any other meat. Pork is also a good source of niacin, phosphorus and potassium. This dish of lean, boneless pork loin chops rubbed with herbs and spices and then braised in cider is a contemporary version of old-fashioned smothered pork chops, which are typically panfried before simmering.

Ingredients:

For the spice rub:

  • 1 tsp. dried oregano 
  • 1/2 tsp. five-spice powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika 
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper 
  •   
  • 4 thin boneless center-cut pork loin chops, about 1 lb. total, trimmed of all visible fat 
  • 4 tsp. canola oil 
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced  
  • 1/3 cup sweet apple cider  
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar 
  • 1 Fuji apple, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges 
  • 1 cup low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth 
  • 1/4 cup 2-percent-fat evaporated milk 

Directions:

To make the spice rub, in a small bowl, stir together the oregano, five-spice powder, paprika, salt and pepper.

Coat the pork chops evenly on both sides with the spice mixture. Transfer to a plate and let sit for 10 minutes.

In a large, deep, nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tsp. of the canola oil. Add the onion and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion to a plate.

Add the remaining 2 tsp. oil to the pan and return it to medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and sear until lightly browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn and brown the meat on the other side, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the meat to the plate holding the onion.

Return the pan to medium heat and pour in the cider and vinegar. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the browned bits from the pan bottom. Return the meat and onion to the pan and place the apple wedges on top of the meat. Pour in the broth, cover and simmer until the chops are opaque throughout, about 10 minutes, reducing the heat if the liquid begins to boil.

Transfer the chops, apple wedges and onion to a warmed platter. Pour the milk into the pan, raise the heat to high and boil until the liquid is reduced by one-third, about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chops and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).