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Pork Chops with Apple-Sage Stuffing

If you don’t have dried apples, dried apricots or figs are excellent substitutes. And if there isn’t any hard cider in the house, regular (nonalcoholic) apple cider, dry white wine or dry vermouth can be used instead.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. minced shallots
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried apples
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh sage
  • 1/4 tsp. ground fennel seeds
  • 1/3 cup hard cider
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Canola oil for brushing
  • 4 bone-in, center-cut pork loin chops, each about 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut lengthwise into slices 1/4 inch thick

Directions:

Prepare the grill
Prepare a hot fire in a grill. If using a gas grill, turn one burner on medium and the other burner(s) on high. If using a charcoal grill, spread the coals into a slope.

Stuff the pork chops
In a small fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the bread crumbs, dried apples, sage and ground fennel seeds, then stir in the cider. Season with salt and pepper. Cut a deep horizontal slit into each pork chop and fill with an equal amount of the apple stuffing. Close the slits with wooden toothpicks. Season the chops with salt and pepper.

Grill the pork chops and fennel
Lightly oil the grill rack. Place the pork chops over the hottest area of the grill and cook until the undersides are seared with grill marks, about 2 minutes. Turn the chops over and grill the other sides until marked, about 2 minutes more. Move the pork chops to the cooler area of the grill and cover the grill. Cook until the chops feel firm and spring back when pressed in the center, about 16 minutes more.

During the last 10 minutes of grilling, brush the fennel slices with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place over the hottest area of the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until barely tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer the pork chops and fennel to a platter, remove the toothpicks and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Grilling, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2007).