When we got our CSA box this week, the only thing for which I didn't have a zillion ideas was rhubarb. It's often used in sweets, like my mother-in-law's amazing strawberry rhubarb pie, but I already had though about making rhubarb bread, so didn't really want to bake with it again. Then I remembered having pork chops with a sweet and tart sauce from rhubarb and dried fruit (I think it may have been figs).
On a recent trip to Trader Joe's, I'd picked up some dried cherries. Finding them without added sugar is difficult, so I like to stock up whenever we're there (the closest TJ's is hours away, so we don't get there often). I figured they would pair well with the rhubarb. One could easily use any dried fruit for this (I often use raisins with pork- plump in the same method as the cherries).
This can easily be doubled or even tripled. You could also grill the chops, if you like, and just make the sauce separately. Chicken thighs would also work nicely (adding baking time).
Pork Chops with Cherry Rhubarb Sauce
2 bone-in pork chops, trimmed of excess fat (some fat is necessary)
1/4 onion, chopped (I'd have used a shallot, if I had it on-hand)
1 clove garlic
1/4 c dried bing cherries (or other dried fruit)
1/2 c rhubarb, chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper and thyme to taste
1 TBL maple sugar (or any sweetener you prefer-- pure maple syrup or brown sugar would also work nicely)
water or stock
Preheat the oven to 400F. Make sure to take the chops out of the refrigerator a good 1/2 hour
before cooking to bring up to room temperature. Dry them off with a
paper towel, so that you don't steam them instead of searing.
Soak the cherries in warm water and a little balsamic vinegar. While they plump up, chop the onion and some garlic and add them to a saucepan with some olive oil until glossy. Add the rhubarb to let it marry with the aromatics.
Next, add the cherries in the juices and just enough water (or stock) to cover, salt, pepper and thyme. I simmered until the rhubarb was softened, reduced to thicken slightly (about 1/4) and adjusted seasonings. Once finished, take the sauce off the heat and go to work on the chops.
Season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a large heavy skillet on medium-high heat until hot (NOT non-stick). Add a small amount of olive oil once the pan is to temperature, using a spatula to evenly spread the oil. Add the chops (quickly, or the oil will begin to burn) and don't disturb them for a couple of minutes. As soon as the pan releases the chops (2-3 minutes), turn them over and let them sear on the other side for a couple minutes.
If using a heat-proof skillet that fits all chops, pop it in the oven until they reach approx 140F (They will come up to temp with residual cooking while resting. FDA recommends 145F), which should take about 5 or so more minutes, depending on thickness. If the skillet is not oven-proof, simply move to a baking dish to finish cooking.
Let rest, tented in foil, for about 15 minutes, so it has time to reabsorb any juices. While resting, add the rhubarb sauce to the skillet to pick up the lovely bits from searing.
This pairs well with seasoned whole wheat couscous and a nice salad for a lovely summer meal.