EPIC PORK CHOP WITH ROASTED APPLES, YAMS + KALE

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Pork chops can go from succulent, juicy, and amazingly savory to cardboard in just a few moments.  The trick all comes down to temperature.  A perfectly cooked chop should be 140 F inside, slightly pink, and visibly juicy.  How do you get such perfection? Here are a few tips:

1. Brine! Brining your meat helps keep the moisture in and seasons it from the inside out.

2. Go thick. It’s a lot easier to control the temperature of the meat with thicker cuts. Thinner cuts cook quickly, so they’re easy to over-cook.

3. Rest.  Let your meat rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it.  This is to make sure all of the juices stay in the meat.  Cut into it too soon, and they’ll drain right out.

4. Buy good meat.  I got real fancy and bought heritage pork, which has a deep, savory flavor and absolutely gorgeous fat.  That sounds strange, that fat can be absolutely gorgeous, but it can, and is when you buy good pork.  Factory-farmed pigs have been bred to produce very lean meat, which can be dry and bland when cooked; while heritage breeds tend to be fattier and thus more flavorful.  Happy, well fed animals produce the best tasting meat, so if you can find organic, free range, hormone free, small farm raised pork, go for it.

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INGREDIENTS

For 4

1 4-chop pork rib rack, bones frenched with excess fat trimmed (meat is removed from the bones)

INGREDIENTS (BRINE)

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

5 peppercorns

1 quart of water

INGREDIENTS (RUB)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 teaspoon pepper

INGREDIENTS (TO FINISH)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

DIRECTIONS

Combine brine ingredients and pour into a freezer bag or container with the pork.  Pop in the fridge and marinate for 1 hour (up to 2).

Remove pork from brine; discard brine. Rinse pork under cold running water for 5 minutes to reduce saltiness; pat dry with paper towels. Place pork on a rack set over sheet of foil in a roasting pan; let stand at room temperature while your oven preheats to take the chill off (at least 30 minutes).

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F.  Mix thyme and crushed peppercorns in small bowl; sprinkle mixture over pork. Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 125°F, about  45 minutes. Remove from oven. Let roast rest for 30 minutes, then slice off chops.  Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat, melt the butter, add the thyme,  and immediately add the pork chops, searing until golden brown on both sides (about 2 minutes a side).

INGREDIENTS (ROASTED APPLES + YAMS + KALE)

For 4

3 gala apples, peeled and cored and cut into eighths

2 yams, peeled  and cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 bunch kale, ribbed and cut into 1-inch thick strips

1 yellow onion, sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle ingredients with olive oil, and toss with salt, pepper, and thyme. Spread ingredients in a single layer across two rimmed baking sheets. I keep the kale all together because I remove that first. Bake, flipping halfway through, until tender but firm, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the kale at the halfway point, it should be crisp. Once all of the ingredients are cooked, mix together and serve.