Mmmmmmm, thick cut, bone-in pork chops. Of all the different cuts of pork, these thick, juicy, versatile hunks of pork goodness are way up near the top of my rankings for “Top of the Pig”. Grilled, baked, or even pressure cooked, the thickness of the cut almost guarantees a tender finished product, but where these things REALLY shine is when they are stuffed.
I have seen dozens upon dozens of recipes for stuffed pork chops while browsing the net and reading cookbooks, and a solid 90% or more of them call for some funky bread-based stuffing with tons of herbs and other seasonings. I guess those would be ok, but I prefer a much more simple approach to stuffing – a single ingredient kind of approach using fresh fruit. Pork and fruit are a natural combo going back as far as the iconic “apple in the mouth” that everyone has seen once or twice in a cartoon or other show, so why muck up perfectly good pork with a mass of stuffing meant for a turkey?
At one point or another, I have used pears, apples, pineapple, and many other fruits for stuffing a chop, but I always end up going back to my favorite fruit on the planet when I really want to do it right – the mango. The flavor is awesome, the texture is perfect for a stuffing application, and I get to eat the leftovers, so what’s not to like?
When I mention the idea of stuffing a pork chop to people, the most frequent response I get is “that’s just too hard to do – I don’t have that level of cooking skill”, and I never fail to laugh when that happens. If you can summon the knife skills to slice fruit and own a small, sharp knife, you can stuff a pork chop. The technique is simple – you slip the knife into the side of the chop and slowly and carefully slice the inside with the tip of the knife without making the initial opening any bigger or breaching the sides, creating a pocket inside the meat. A hand placed on top of the chop keeps it stable as you create the pocket – that’s all it takes. A simple search on Youtube for “stuffing a pork chop” will turn up several videos showing the technique if you need more guidance than that!
The rest of the stuffing process involves slicing the fruit into small, thin strips and stuffing it into the hole you made on the initial cut. Keep the slices about 1/4 inch thick, and slip them into the pocket in a single layer and you are all set. Pretty hard, eh?
Since there is already quite a bit of flavor coming from the fruit inside the pork, this is one of the few dishes where I skimp on the seasonings a little. A good dusting of sea or kosher salt and some cracked black pepper are all these things need. Sear them in a hot pan, then finish up in the oven for a solid meal. Well, sort of.
Remember that twist from the title? That would be my seasonal fruit secret weapon for this dish – a blood orange and habanero sauce that adds a tart, spicy kick to the chops that works perfectly with the mellow sweetness of the mango.
Blood oranges are a type of orange with a purple flesh inside and a flavor that resembles a cross between a raspberry and a regular orange. They are in season between December and April(ish), and have become pretty common in the produce sections of most grocery stores lately. Cooked down with some honey, a habanero, and some soy sauce, the juice of these purple fleshed beauties is a perfect way to top off an already great pork chop.
So put aside your fears of the stuffed pork chop and give it a try. And grab some blood oranges while you’re at it – if nothing else, they are great for getting strange looks from people at the office or for freaking out the kids.
Mango Stuffed Pork Chops
- 2 thick cut, bone in pork chops – about 1 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 of a mango (one cheek) sliced into strips
- cracked black pepper
- Blood orange-habanero sauce from the recipe below
- 1 Tablespoon coconut or other oil
Step 2 : Using a small, narrow bladed VERY SHARP knife, cut a pocket into each pork chop. Work the knife slowly from side to side, making the pocket as large as possible without exiting the sides of the shop.
Step 3 : Slice one cheek off of the mango and peel it. Slice the peeled mango into thin strips and slide them into the pockets of the chops in a single layer. Use more of the mango if needed, but do not stack the slices inside the chop.
Step 4 : Liberally season both sides of the chop with salt and pepper.
Step 5 : Heat the oil in a large, oven safe skillet/pan on high heat (the pan will be going into the oven, so do not use one with a plastic handle) and sear the chops on both sides for 3-4 minutes per side.
Step 6 : Remove the pan from the burner and place it in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow the chops to rest for 5-10 minutes before plating. Top with the blood orange sauce, and consume.
Blood Orange – Habanero Sauce
- 1 cup of blood orange juice
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon premium aged soy sauce
- 1 habanero chile, seeded and minced
Step 1 : Place all the ingredients in a non-reactive sauce pan or pot and heat on medium-high heat until reduced to a thick sauce, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, and use to top pork chops. Strain if you like a smooth sauce.
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