Friday, October 25, 2013

Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apples and Sweet Potatoes

I'm not a big risk taker. Roller coasters scare the bejeebers out of me. I don't run with scissors. The idea of skydiving gives me a conniption.

For some reason, whenever I use my slow cooker, I feel like I'm taking a risk. Maybe it's because I biffed a few meals in my slow cooker shortly after the husband and I got hitched. One rock-hard pot roast in particular haunts my dinner dreams.

So as my fork hovered over a plate piled with pork chops, I had a twinge of nerves. The autumnal aroma of sweet potatoes and apples hinted at deliciousness, but would the chops be tasty? Or would they be dry and bland? Bravely, I dove in.

And I devoured every bite.

The brine infused flavor and ensured the pork stayed moist. Layered with the sweetness of apples and onions, plus the savory creaminess of sweet potatoes...Good gravy.

If its deliciousness isn't enough, something else to consider about Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apples and Sweet Potatoes is the leftover potential. I've mentioned before that I like to disguise leftovers. Here are a couple ways to re-purpose this meal:

  1. BBQ Pork Sandwiches: Cut leftover chops into bite-sized pieces. Warm it up in the microwave with a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid and some barbecue sauce. Serve the pork on rolls with a pile of coleslaw on top.
  2. Sweet Potato Soup: Puree leftover sweet potatoes, apples, and onions with a little bit of chicken or vegetable broth. Serve hot with a big salad and a hunk of crusty bread. 

Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apples and Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Cheap Healthy Good
Serves: 6

3 tablespoons Kosher salt
6 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, lightly crushed
6 boneless pork loin chops
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 apples*, cored and sliced into thick wedges
2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
Salt and pepper
1 large sweet onion, peeled and thinly sliced

First we're going to brine the pork chops. In a large bowl combine salt, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, peppercorns, and a few cups of water. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add pork chops then add more water until the chops are covered. Refrigerate for 1-1.5 hours.

Remove the pork chops from the brine. Discard brine. Rinse the pork chops and pat dry.

Heat oil in a very large skillet over medium high. Add the chops and cook until they're browned and release easily from the pan, about 5-6 minutes. Repeat on the second side. Remove chops from the skillet and set aside. (Brown the chops in two batches if you don't have a big enough skillet to fit all 6 chops without crowding the pan.)

Add 1/2 cup water to the skillet and boil, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the water is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile toss apple slices with the remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar. Place sweet potatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker and season generously with salt and pepper. Top with half the onion and half the apples. Add the pork chops and top with the remaining onion and apples. Pour the liquid that you used to deglaze the pan on top of everything. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Serve the pork chops and sweet potatoes topped with onions and apples.

*I think you can use whatever apples you have on hand, but each variety of apple will cook a little differently. I used McIntosh apples, and they broke down quite a bit. That was fine by me, but if you want your apples to stay more firm, consider a sturdier variety. Also, if you leave the peel on your apples, they will hold their shape more.

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