Monday, November 2, 2009

Slow Cooker Pork Chops, Apples, and Sweet Potatoes: A Crockpot Reborn

Today in my Serious Eats column: Pork Chops with Green Apple and Tomatillo Sauce. Three thumbs up!

Do you guys ever feel bad for your appliances? I do. Especially when I haven’t used them for awhile. I figure they must get lonely, all dust-covered and isolated from their more functional friends.

My handheld beater? It hasn’t received any love since Bob the StandMixer entered the picture. And my white round casserole dish? These days, it functions mainly as a toaster stand. We won’t even mention that weird rectangular pot that the Husband-Elect claims to love so much. I think it’s in therapy.

Sadly, my slow cooker’s become one of those shamefully neglected kitchen tools. I haven’t touched it in months, out of A) laziness, B) sloth, and C) a secret fear it will burn the house down. (Because if there’s one thing my father has instilled in me, it’s a fear of something burning the house down, even if it has no chance of bursting into flame whatsoever, like an apple.) The crockpot has produced no delicious stews, nor emanated any delightful smells. It is the Kansas City Royals of cookware – subconsciously beloved, but otherwise, largely ignored.

But that’s all changing. Yessiree, Bob (the StandMixer). This winter, that vessel’s gonna get more action than the ladle, the wooden spoon, and maybe even the bathroom put together. And it starts today, with Slow Cooker Pork Chops, Apples, and Sweet Potatoes. Or as I call it, SCPCASP. (Just kidding. That’s one unwieldy acronym.)

Hearty, sweet, and warm, the dish is a Frankenstein’s Monster of three other recipes: Alton Brown’s pork brine (minus a tablespoon or two of salt), All Recipes’ Pork Chops with Apples, Onions, and Sweet Potatoes, and slow cooker instructions from a very nice web reviewer named CookinNurse. The combination produces moist pork and perfectly cooked produce, and like all crockpot meals, it only gets better after a night in the fridge.

Of course, if you should give it a try, know this:

1) Alton’s brine is very well-reviewed, but a little salty for some. I was okay, but if you’re uncomfortable, take the salt down another tablespoon OR only let the pork brine for a few hours.

2) Suggested additions include dried cranberries, raisins, nutmeg, cinnamon, and perhaps a topping of pecans after the whole shebang is plated.

3) For a more savory variation, try substituting a yellow onion for a red one, eliminating the sugar, and increasing the salt and pepper.

That’s it for now, but look for more slow cooker recipes in the following months, folks. That is, unless it burns the house down. (JUST KIDDING DAD.)


If you like this recipe, you might also enjoy:


Slow Cooker Chops, Apples, and Sweet Potatoes
Serves 3 or 4
Adapted from Alton Brown and All Recipes.
(Print this recipe)

For the brine
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
3 tablespoons cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, slightly crushed
1/2 pound ice
4 (1 to 1 1/2-inch thick) boneless center cut pork chops (4-oz each)

For the slow cooker
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 Golden Delicious apples, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch wedges (DO NOT PEEL)
2 medium large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rings

Cinnamon or nutmeg
Dried cranberries

NOTE: To save some cash, buy bone-in center cut pork chops and debone them yourself. Once you remove all the visible fat, each piece of meat should come to a little over 4 ounces.

1) Mix the broth, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and peppercorns in a medium pan. Heat over medium-high and cook until the sugar and salt is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add ice, and stir until ice is melted. Place pork chops in a gallon bag or 1-quart dish, add the brine, and refrigerate overnight (but not too much longer).

2) Remove pork from brine. (Discard brine.) Rinse the chops and pat them as dry as possible. Set aside. In a medium-large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high. When oil is hot, brown chops, about 5 or 6 minutes on each side.

3) While pork is cooking, combine brown sugar in a bowl with apples, and stir until apples are coated. (There will be sugar left over, but we’ll use that later.)

4) Place sweet potatoes in bottom of slow cooker, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Then, layer as follows: ½ the onion, ½ the apples, pork, the remaining onion, the remaining apples. Sprinkle with leftover brown sugar and cook on HIGH for 4-1/2 hours. Stir gently before serving, and be sure to spoon some of the sauce on top of each dish.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving
Three servings: 515 calories, 10.2 g fat, 7.7 g fiber, $2.73
Four servings: 387 calories, 7.7 g fat, 5.8 g fiber, $2.05

1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth: 15 calories, 0 g fat, 0.5 g fiber, $0.62
3 tablespoons kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.13
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed: 136 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.13
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, slightly crushed: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.27
1/2 pound ice: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.00
4 (1 to 1 1/2-inch thick) boneless center cut pork chops (4-oz each): 560 calories, 16 g fat, 0 g fiber, $3.91
1 tablespoon olive oil: 113 calories, 13.4 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.12
3 tablespoons brown sugar: 136 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.13
2 Golden Delicious apples: 189 calories, 0.7 g fat, 8.7 g fiber, $0.80
2 medium large sweet potatoes: 335 calories, 0.4 g fat, 11.7 g fiber, $1.59
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.02
1 large red onion: 62 calories, 0.2 g fat, 2.1 g fiber, $0.48
TOTAL: 1546 calories, 30.7 g fat, 23 g fiber, $8.20
PER SERVING (TOTAL/3): 515 calories, 10.2 g fat, 7.7 g fiber, $2.73
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 387 calories, 7.7 g fat, 5.8 g fiber, $2.05

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