In autumn, when the light changes and there’s a briskness in the air, this dish makes a satisfying meal at home. Adding just a small quantity of maple syrup to the brine gives the meat a hint of sweetness, which shines through when the pork is paired with the sweet-and-savory pear chutney.
Maple-Brined Pork Chops with Pear Chutney
For the pear chutney:
3 large, firm pears, such as Bartlett, Bosc or Comice, peeled, quartered, cored and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 Tbs. peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 1/2 quarts cold water
2/3 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 bay leaves, crumbled
2 Tbs. peppercorns
6 bone-in pork loin chops, each about 8 oz. and 3/4 inch thick
Olive oil for brushing
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
To prepare the chutney, in a small saucepan over low heat, combine the pears and vinegar. Cook, stirring frequently to prevent scorching until the pears begin to break down, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, stirring until it has dissolved. Add the ginger and return the pan to low heat. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture is dark brown and very thick, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
In a tall, narrow nonreactive container that will fit in your refrigerator, combine the cold water, salt, maple syrup, bay leaves and peppercorns and stir until the salt dissolves. Submerge the pork chops in the brine. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.
Remove the chops from the brine and discard the brine. Rinse the chops with cold water and pat thoroughly dry. Let stand on a rack to dry further, about 10 minutes.
Heat a large cast-iron fry pan over medium-high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Brush the chops lightly on both sides with olive oil and season generously with pepper. Add the chops to the pan without letting them touch and cook without moving them for 2 minutes. Turn the chops over and cook for 2 minutes more. Reduce the heat to very low and continue cooking the chops, turning them over once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a chop, away from the bone, registers 145°F, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes.
Arrange the chops on individual plates and serve immediately with the chutney. Serves 6.