This recipe is from a 2005 issue of Cook's Illustrated. Perhaps our pork chops are puny or maybe we’re just not aggressive enough when we pack the stuffing into the chops, but we always have excess stuffing. It’s no biggie. We just eat it as a side dish or as a chutney-type thing on top of the pork chops. We served the pork chops with grilled polenta and peppers—it's a delicious combo as long as you get a bit of grilled pepper with each bite of polenta since the grilled polenta was incredibly bland on its own.
4 bone-in pork rib chops (1 ½ inches thick)
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup table salt
6 cups water
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 slice bread
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 ounces of baby spinach (about a package of prewashed)
½ cup fontina cheese, shredded
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 medium lemon, cut into 4 wedges (keep peels)
1 tbsp lemon juice (fresh squeezed from wedges)
1. Cut a one inch opening in the side of each chop, pivoting the knife to create a pocket in the inside of the chop. (The bigger the pocket, the more stuffing you can fit inside, just be careful not to poke a second hole in the opposite side of the chop.)
2. Dissolve sugar and salt in the water and submerge the chops for an hour in the refrigerator.
3. Preheat oven to 450º and put rimmed baking sheet on lower-middle position.
4. Meanwhile, pulse bread and pine nuts in a food processor until evenly ground.
5. Heat olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, add garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add spinach, cooking until wilted.
6. Transfer spinach to colander and squeeze out water. Set aside.
7. Mix fontina and Parm in bowl. Add spinach and bread crumb mixture, mixing well. Add lemon juice.
8. Remove chops from brine, rinse and pat dry. Stuff with the spinach mixture.
9. Trim reserved lemon peel quarters into two-inch lengths, and insert one into each chop pocket to prevent the stuffing from oozing out during the cooking process.
10. Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, until smoking.
11. Cook chops in the skillet until browned, 3 minutes per side, flipping only once.
12. Transfer chops to preheated baking sheet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 135º. Flip once midway through cooking time.
13. Remove and tent with foil, letting sit for 10 minutes. (It will keep cooking, getting up to an internal temp of 145º or so.) Serve.
As you can see from the picture, we opted to forego the pesky "insert lemon peel into chop" step and ended up having stuffing that oozed out everywhere during the cooking process. The first time we tried it with the peels, they popped out in two of the four chops. Even so, we strongly suggest you include that extra step because the end result is much prettier (and tastier too).