Grilled Pork Chops Stuffed with Cornbread, Apple, and Cheddar

tonyr_pot_k1 Steven asked me about stuffing grilled pork chops in a recent cooking class. “It’s easy,” I quickly responded, but then realized I’d never stuffed pork chops before and, accordingly, really had no business answering.

tonyr_cook_k Tony’s take: But it is a good question, so I set off to find out (and satisfy my own grilling curiosity). I like the concept of stuffing pork chops; you take a cut that’s lean and prone to drying out (if not kinda blah), and flavor it from the inside out. And the technique really is easy as I quickly learned. The trick is picking out a stuffing that both complements the pork and holds ok on the grill. Cornbread and apples are a natural fit. I crumbled up the bread, tossed it with diced apple and cheddar, crammed it into pockets in the chops, and grilled them off with a finishing honey glaze. And they were really good (seriously, like, the best pork chops I’ve ever eaten). Here’s how:

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– The chops: I made two pork promises recently: first, I would only buy local, all-natural if I can afford it (seen too many Food Inc.-type documentaries of late to go with conventional). And upon commencing my pork chop purchases at Wholefoods, I realized that their beautiful local pork was just as lean and dry as the regular supermarket stuff. Which led me to pork promise #2: I would brine all chops. Pork is simply bred too lean these days. The brine doesn’t have to be prolonged – 1 hour at room temp will do the trick – but the added moisture makes all the difference. One note: no matter the supermarket, do seek out pork that’s not been pumped with a saline solution. Not only does this stuff have a rubbery texture, but it also turns into a sponge if you brine it (in essence, double brine, it).

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The stuffing: Cornbread, apples, and cheddar are a safe but tasty pairing. Crumble the cornbread and grate a good, sharp cheddar. Dice up the apple fine so it softens easily when cooked. Then stuff the pork by using a paring knife to make a long slit along the chops’ fatty (non-bone) side. Slice horizontally across almost all the way to the bone and then, using a spoon, force the stuffing into the chops. Press the chops flat and seal with 1 or 2 toothpicks. And you’re ready to grill!

The Recipe: Serves 4

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1.Brine the pork chops: Whisk 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1 cup water in a 2-cup measure. Microwave for up to 1 1/2 min, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds, until the sugar and salt dissolve. Mix well with 3 cups cold water in a large bowl. Add 8 bone-in pork chops (about 3 1/2 lb) and brine for 1 hr at room temp or up to 4 hr in the refrigerator.

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2.Make the stuffing:  In a large bowl, mix 2 cups crumbled corn bread crumbs (about 6 oz.), 1/2 apple (I used a Fuji, cut in 1/4-inch dice), 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, 1 canned chipotle (chopped), and 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme.

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3. Prepare the grill and stuff the chops: Prepare a medium charcoal fire or heat the gas grill to medium high. Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry well with paper towel. Give the chops a gentle pound using the side of your hand. Using a paring knife, make a slit along the length of the fatty side of the chops and then slice horizontally across almost all the way to the bone. Open up this pocket and, using small spoon, stuff the cornbread mixture into the pocket. Pat the chop flat over the stuffing and then secure shut with 1 or 2 toothpicks.

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4. Grill the chops: Set the chops on the grill and cook, undisturbed, until they have good grill marks and easily release when you lift up an edge, about 3 min. Flip and cook the other sides, brushing the tops with 1/2 cup honey, until the chops become firm to the touch but are still light pink (145F for medium well), about 3 more min. Transfer to a serving platter, brush with the remainder of the honey, and let cool for a couple of min before discarding the toothpicks.

pork.chop.85. Serve the chops with grilled vegetables and brown rice.

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