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sunday dinner: seared pork chops with peaches & basil.

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Tarzan & Jane. Anthony & Cleopatra. Kermit & Miss Piggy. Simon & Garfunkel. Pork chops & Peaches. Wait. What?

OK, maybe I’m reaching a little by adding pork chops and peaches to a list of history’s great pairings, but hey, I’m a believer (but NOT a Belieber). I’ve always been a big fan of meat and fruit together, but there’s just something about a juicy pork chop topped with equally juicy peaches that just sends me over the edge. A slight departure from the classic pork chop and apple pairing, but well worth the stone fruit upgrade. Simple, clean flavors that come together quickly, because who wants to slave away in the kitchen in the height of summer? With this tasty dish, you’ll be back out on the patio, glass of rosé in hand, in no time.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Seared Pork Chops with Peaches & Basil

For the Brine
3 cups water, divided
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bay leaf

For the Pork Chops
2 center-cut, 3/4 to 1 inch thick (boneless or bone-in, you decide)
Olive Oil
Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper

For the Peaches
2 large peaches, cut in quarters and pitted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped

Kitchen equipment: shallow dish for brining chops, large cast iron or stainless steel pan (must be oven safe), tongs

First things first, brine your pork chops. Now, this is not a mandatory step (and this is definitely where my friend, Jaime, would say, ‘Tina, simple recipes do NOT include a step in which you brine pork chops!’) And she’d be right. But, come on, people. How hard is making a little bath for your meat if the end result is the juiciest, tastiest pork chop you’ve ever had? I say it’s well worth it, but if you can’t be bothered and/or you’re short on time, feel free to skip the brine.

If you’re completely bought into this journey, however, bring one cup water to a boil (I did this in a large mug in the microwave), then add your salt and other seasonings to the hot water. Stir to dissolve the salt, then pour into your shallow dish. Add the additional two cups of water to bring the brine to room temperature.

Add your chops to the brine, ensuring they are fully submerged (if not, you can add a bit more water until they are), then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to four hours.

Next, take your cast iron or stainless steel pan and place it on the center rack of your oven. Preheat the oven and the pan to 400 degrees. This genius little trick of preheating your pan will ensure that you get a nice, golden sear on the outside of your pork chop while still maintaining a nice juicy inside.

While your oven preheats, remove chops from their brine (or their packaging if you were all ‘screw your brine, Tina’) and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the chops on both sides with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside until the oven comes to temperature.

Once the pan is fully preheated, remove from the oven (very carefully and with oven mitts) and place on the stove over medium-high heat. I would also recommend turning on a fan or opening a window, as your pork chops might smoke a bit when added to the pan.

Now, add your chops to the pan and sear for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t move them around during this step — the key to a good sear is to let them do their thing without interruption. Once the chops have a nice crust on one side, flip them with your tongs and remove from the heat.

Place your pan back in the oven to finish the cooking, which should take about six to ten minutes depending on the size and thickness of your chops. The internal temperature when done should be between 140 to 145 degrees, so start checking them after about six minutes (and every minute thereafter) until you reach the right temperature.

When fully cooked, remove from the oven and place the chops on a plate tented with foil. Pour any pan juices over the chops — these should NOT go to waste. The chops need to rest for about 5-10 minutes to soak up and retain all those good juices, and that’s the perfect amount of time for you to cook the peaches.

In the same pan you cooked the pork, heat on medium-high on the stove. Place the peaches cut side down and sear until browned, about 30 to 60 seconds. Remove and add to the plate with the pork chops.

Serve the chops with the seared peaches, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a garnish of the chopped basil. I sautéed some green beans with a little garlic and olive oil to go along side, and of course, my trusty summer sidekick, a glass (read: bottle) of crisp rosé.

Enjoy!

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