To explain, agrodolce is an Italian sauce with a sticky consistency. Its name is Italian for “sour” (agro) and “sweet” (dolce). A classic agrodolce recipe contains reduced honey or sugar, vinegar, pine nuts, and a mixture of dried fruits and veggies, such as golden raisins, red onion, dried figs, or currants. The vinegar you use to make agrodolce impacts the flavor of the sauce. Here we used balsamic.
This simple sauce with limited ingredients is a quick agrodolce. Meats such as pork chops, chicken breasts, and steak benefit from a sauce with sweet-tart flavors post-grilling or pan-searing. And we paired our chops with a wonderful side of Roasted Winter Squash with Lime, Chili and Cilantro.
*If desired and you have the time, season the pork chops with salt and pepper, place them on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for 8 to 24 hours.
Pan-Seared Bone-In Pork Chops with Maple Agrodolce
*Season the pork chops with salt and pepper, place them on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for 8 to 24 hours.
Pat chops dry with paper towels and sprinkle both sides with pepper. Place chops 1 inch apart in cold 12-inch nonstick or carbon-steel skillet, arranging so narrow part of 1 chop is opposite wider part of second. Place skillet over high heat and cook chops for 2 minutes. Flip chops and cook on second side for 2 minutes. (Neither side of chops will be browned at this point.)
Flip chops; reduce heat to medium; and continue to cook, flipping chops every 2 minutes, until exterior is well browned and meat registers 140 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes longer. (Chops should be sizzling; if not, increase heat slightly. Reduce heat if skillet starts to smoke.)
Transfer chops to carving board and let rest for 5 minutes. If serving more than 2 people, carve the meat from the bone and make slices about 1⁄2″ thick. Season meat with coarse or flake sea salt to taste. Serve with bones, if desired.
This easy, elegant sauce from Cook’s Illustrated is the perfect accompaniment to cuts of pork, such as the above Pan-Seared Thick-Cut, Bone-In Pork Chops. Using maple syrup as a sweetener in place of sugar contributed viscosity, enhancing cling, and an attractive glossiness. Plump raisins, or dried figs add pleasing texture, and minced shallot and red pepper flakes amp up the savoriness, keeping the sauce from becoming cloying.
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
2 Tbsp. chopped golden raisins OR dried figs, chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch table salt
Bring all ingredients to boil in small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced and slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes (sauce will continue to thicken as it cools).
Serve. (If not using right away, cover to keep warm.)
One chop, two diners. That’s all you need when your two-inch thick pork chop weighs in at 1 1⁄4 pounds. For a thick, bone-in pork chop, pan-searing is a great cooking method. The high heat seals in the pork’s juices so you don’t have to suffer over dry, chewy meat. Then 10 minutes in a hot oven to render your chop perfectly cooked and succulent.
For a final touch, the mustard-shallot sauce is made in the same pan while the pork chop rests. We tend to like saucy, so if you prefer less of an embellishment, just cut the ingredients in half.
Season pork generously with salt and pepper. Place on a plate. Chill, uncovered, for 2 hours. Remove and let stand 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Heat a heavy, oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. To check when hot enough, add a large drop of water (1/8 teaspoon) to the skillet. When it rolls around the pan like a bead of mercury it is ready. This will take 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat; add oil. Swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Return to medium-high heat. Add pork chop. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until a crust forms (be patient; the pork will release when it’s ready to be turned). Turn and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Sear the end caps for a minute or two each.
Place pan directly into oven for 10 minutes or until pork reaches 145°F when tested with a instant-read thermometer.
Place meat on a plate; cover loosely and keep warm.
Carefully add wine and shallots to skillet. Return to heat. Bring to boiling, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Boil gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until reduced by about half and slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter and mustard.
Spoon sauce over pork to serve. Sprinkle with parsley.
Here’s turning a conventional cooking method upside down. Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, the salted pork chops are first cooked in a low oven, then seared in a smoking pan. Slowly cooking the meat allowed enzymes to break down protein, tenderizing the chops. The salted surface gently dried out in the oven and became beautifully caramelized in the pan.
I know this recipe calls for bone-in loin pork chops, but we happened to have four, thick boneless loin chops in our freezer and went ahead and used them. It’s essential to keep an acute eye on the temperature when using boneless chops since they tend to take a bit longer to come to temperature, however, this method didn’t tend to make a difference.
TIP: Buy chops of similar thickness so that they cook at the same rate.
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tsp.)
¾ cup chicken broth
½ cup dry white wine
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp. white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 3 pieces
Table salt and ground black pepper
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275°F. Pat chops dry with paper towels.
Using sharp knife, cut 2 slits, about 2 inches apart, through outer layer of fat and silver skin. Sprinkle entire surface of each chop with 1 teaspoon salt. Place chops on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and let stand at room temperature 45 minutes.
Season chops liberally with pepper; transfer baking sheet to oven. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of chops and away from bones registers 120° to 125°F, 30 to 45 minutes.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place 2 chops in skillet and sear until well browned and crusty, 1½ to 3 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistribute fat underneath each chop. (Reduce heat if browned bits in pan bottom start to burn.) Using tongs, turn chops and cook until well browned on second side, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer chops to plate and repeat with remaining 2 chops, adding extra tablespoon oil if pan is dry.
Reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 pork chops on their sides. Holding chops together with tongs, return to skillet and sear sides of chops (with exception of bone side) until browned and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chop and away from bone registers 140 to 145 degrees, about 1½ minutes.
Repeat with remaining 2 chops. Let chops rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes while preparing sauce.
Pour off all but 1 teaspoon oil from the pan and return pan to medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 1 minute.
Add the broth and wine, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce measures 1/2 cup, 6 to 7 minutes. Off heat, stir in the thyme and vinegar; whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the pork chops.
Pork and apples is a classic, but usually an everyday pairing. Cook’s Illustrated turned to the French recipe for porc à la Normande to inspire a more elegant rendition. Using thick bone-in chops allows more leeway to avoid overcooking, while salting them an hour before cooking helps keep them moist.
An evenly heated pan is key to a good sear on these big chops, so heat your skillet over medium high for a full 5 minutes before turning up the heat. Cutting the apples into attractive rings provides a bed to raise the chops off the skillet’s bottom to allow for even cooking once transferred to the oven.
For a sauce with layered apple flavor, rely on a combination of sweet cider, cider vinegar, Calvados (or regular brandy), and a few chopped apples, which break down and help produce the right texture. A bit of butter gives the sauce richness, while chicken broth and bacon lend a balancing savoriness. Flambéing the sauce is critical to create an elegantly complex sauce, and doing it in two batches keeps the job easy.
Natural pork is preferred, but if the pork is enhanced (injected with a salt solution), just decrease the salt in step 1 to 1/2 teaspoon per chop. To ensure that they fit in the skillet, choose apples that are approximately 3 inches in diameter. With just the two of us for dinner, we cut the number of chops and apples down from 4 to 2, but kept the amount of the other ingredients the same. Applejack or regular brandy can be used in place of the Calvados. The amount of vinegar to add in step 4 will vary depending on the sweetness of your cider.
Before flambéing, Cook’s Illustrated highly suggests to roll up long shirtsleeves, tie back long hair, and turn off the exhaust fan and any lit burners. Use a long match or wooden skewer to flambé the brandy.
4 (12- to 14-ounce) bone-in pork rib chops, 1 inch thick
Kosher salt and pepper
4 Gala or Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cored
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 shallots, sliced
Pinch ground nutmeg
½ cup Calvados, Applejack or other brandy
1 ¾ cups apple cider
1 ¼ cups chicken broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1/4 tsp. minced
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. vegetable oil
½ – 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Evenly sprinkle each chop with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Place chops on large plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
While chops rest, cut 2 apples into 1/2-inch pieces. Cook bacon in medium saucepan over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Add shallots, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are softened and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
Off heat, add 1/4 cup Calvados and let warm through, about 5 seconds. Wave lit match over pan until Calvados ignites, then shake pan gently to distribute flames. When flames subside, 30 to 60 seconds, cover pan to ensure flame is extinguished, 15 seconds.
Add remaining 1/4 cup Calvados and repeat flambéing (flames will subside after 1 1/2 to 2 minutes). (If you have trouble igniting second addition, return pan to medium heat, bring to bare simmer, and remove from heat and try again.)
Once flames have extinguished, increase heat to medium-high; add cider, 1 cup broth, thyme sprigs, butter, and chopped apples; and bring to rapid simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are very tender and mixture has reduced to 2 1/3 cups, 25 to 35 minutes. Cover and set aside.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
Slice remaining 2 apples into 1/2-inch-thick rings. Pat chops dry with paper towels and evenly sprinkle each chop with pepper to taste.
Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until beginning to smoke. Increase heat to high and brown chops on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer chops to large plate and reduce heat to medium.
Add apple rings and cook until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup broth and cook, scraping up any browned bits with rubber spatula, until liquid has evaporated, about 30 seconds.
Remove pan from heat, flip apple rings, and place chops on top of apple rings. Place skillet in oven and cook until chops register 135 to 140 degrees, 11 to 15 minutes.
Transfer chops and apple rings to serving platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
While chops rest, strain apple/brandy mixture through fine-mesh strainer set in large bowl, pressing on solids with ladle or rubber spatula to extract liquid; discard solids. (Make sure to use rubber spatula to scrape any apple solids on bottom of strainer into sauce.)
Stir in minced thyme and season sauce with vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Transfer sauce to serving bowl. Serve chops and apple rings, passing sauce separately.