This past weekend, the honey and I hightailed it to Seattle for a movie night and super-dinner get-together over my brother Niko’s house.
Replete with the best of friends — Sarah and Jon — we celebrated over salmon, mashed potatoes, caprese salad and wine and finished it all off with the best chocolate cupcakes ever (you rock, Sarah)!
I don’t have a picture of them ’cause they’re in my tummy.
We shaked our bon-bon, had a dance off, repeatedly tried not to accidentally step on the cat, and sang a very loud, out-of-tune rendition of “” to Jon. Baring the early birthday tune, pretty much “the usual” for us.
Not too long after that, we crashed on the floor and watched E.T for the first time since we were kids. I cried my face off as I held my husband’s hand, as my own hand proceeded to fall asleep. It was wonderful.
Maybe it was that awesome movie, or my peeps, but it got me to thinking about Home. Specifically, what Home really means.
Is it a place? Maybe. People? I think so. Food made with the sole intention of creating it for the people you love? Yes, that’s for certain.
Is it a feeling? Like when you are in the arms of those you love, and they envelop you like a fuzzy woobie?
Or is it the feeling you get when you hop off the plane — all kitten-breathed, with a cup-holder circle imprinted on your face from resting on the tray table in front of you — and you see your honey for the first time in you-don’t-know-how-long?
I felt it the first time I set foot on the Trinity Rep mainstage.
It was my acting conservatory audition, and having been left alone to “make the space my own,” I remember standing on that massive stage, looking out onto all those empty seats, and being washed over by this incredible sense of peace, this incredible sense of belonging.
After a lifetime of traveling to so many parts of the globe — and having lived in so many tiny corners of it — I knew I’d found Home.
That time, Home was in a career, profession.
But Home is also in the friends you make, no matter how far away they are, or how often or infrequently you see them.
It may be in a familiar smell, like the Speed Stick my husband and a bazillion other guys wear, but on him, only smells like him.
It can be in the kindness of strangers; those that welcome you with their hearts and treat you from there.
But I think — above all — Home is anywhere, anytime and with anything or anyone you feel the most at peace and yourself with … when your outer world is in alignment with your inner one – in other words — with what you truly value inside.
Your very own North Star, to keep you on track with what truly matters …
… and it’s whatever it means to you.
To me, it also lives in this dish. The secret is in the brining and in the love that you put in to make it. Juicy and Fall-perfect, it hugs you like your best friend would when you haven’t seen them in what seems like forever. And it tastes and smells heavenly — savory and sweet — just like home.
Best-Ever Brined Pork Chops with Spiced Apples and Raisins
Adapted from Food Network
For Pork Chops:
8 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sea salt
1/2 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 fresh thyme sprig
2 thick-cut bone-in pork loin chops, approximately 3/4 pound each
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For Spiced-Apples and Raisins:
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
leaves from 1 fresh thyme sprig
2 tablespoons raisins
1/3 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
two pinches cayenne pepper
two pinches cardamom
pinch ground nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
First start by making the brine: In an extra-large Tupperware container with lid, combine water, brown sugar, salt, apple juice concentrate, pepper, and thyme. Stir well until sugar and salt are dissolved.
Submerge pork chops in the brine, cover with lid, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Important: Make sure not to brine the meat longer than 2 hours, otherwise it will start getting mushy.
Ten minutes before removing pork from brine, preheat oven to 350 Degrees F.
Remove the pork chops from the brine, pat dry with paper towels, and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a large, heavy skillet –preferably, cast iron — over medium-high heat until smoking hot. Add olive oil and lay the two pork chops in the pan, side-by-side leaving space between them. Brown 3-4 minutes on each side so that chops develop a nice sear and seal the juices in.
Remove pork chops from skillet and transfer to a large, lightly greased baking sheet. Place baking sheet into oven and roast pork chops for approximately 20 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 140 to 145 Degrees F on instant-read thermometer.
Meanwhile, while the pork is roasting, melt butter in a separate, medium-sized clean skillet over medium heat. Add apples and fresh thyme to skillet and cook stirring frequently, until apples begin to brown – which will be approximately 10 minutes.
Next, add the raisins, apple juice concentrate, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Stir well, scrapping up any brown bits, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until the apples soften to your liking.
When pork chops are done, remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Divide among two plates, spoon spiced apples and raisins on top, and serve immediately.
What’s your definition of Home?
Let’s share and discuss!
- Brined pork chops with cider pan sauce and fried capers (theglobeandmail.com)
- Italian plums pair perfectly with grilled pork chops (csmonitor.com)
- Cuban Roast Pork (smallkitchenchronicles.com)