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Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010 10:22 am

Black walnut praline pork chops

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Black walnuts are available from at least two vendors at the Old State Capitol Farmers Market, completely shelled as well as with pre-cracked shells. Hammons Black Walnuts are available at several local grocery stores. 

  • 4 pork chops, approximately 1/2 – 1-inch thick
  • 1/4 c. kosher or sea salt
  • 1 qt. cold water
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. bacon fat or oil
  • 2 apples, such as Jonathan or Granny Smith, OR substitute 2-3 firm but ripe pears
  • 1 T. cider vinegar or more, optional
  • 1/2 c. black walnuts
  • 1/2 - 1/3 c. dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper, or to taste, optional
  • 1 T. Dijon or stone-ground mustard
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the salt and water in a one-gallon resealable plastic bag. Squish with your hands until the salt is completely dissolved. Add the pork chops, squeeze out as much water as possible, and let the chops brine, refrigerated, for at least four hours and up to 24. Remove from the refrigerator 2-3 hours before cooking to let them come to room temperature.

While the chops are brining, core and dice the apples or pears; peeling them is optional. If doing this more than a few minutes before beginning to cook the chops, toss them with the vinegar to keep them from browning. You may wish to do this anyway if you’d like a more sweet/sour sauce. The larger amount of sugar, of course, makes the sauce sweeter.

Pat the pork chops completely dry with a lint-free towel, then sprinkle with pepper to taste. Heat the fat/oil over medium high heat in a skillet large enough to hold the chops in one layer without crowding. When it’s hot but not smoking, add the chops and sear on both sides until they’re well browned.

Remove the chops from the skillet and pour off any excess fat. Turn the heat to medium, return the skillet to the stove, then add the black walnuts to the skillet and sauté, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes or until they are lightly toasted. Remove a scant half of the nuts from the skillet and reserve. Add the remaining ingredients, whisking to combine, then return the pork chops to the pan and cook at a low simmer until the meat is done. The time depends on the thickness of the chops: thinner ones should take 3-4 minutes, thicker ones a few minutes longer. Remove them to a platter and cover to keep warm. Bring the sauce to a full boil and reduce until it’s slightly thickened. Pour the sauce over the chops and sprinkle with the reserved nuts. Serves 4.

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