These pork chops, served with crispy sage leaves, charred lemon slices, and greens, are quick to make (minus the brining time!) and a fabulous treat for any weeknight. They would also be great on a stay-at-home Saturday night (hello, binge TV!).
WHICH PORK CHOPS SHOULD I BUY?
Thick pork chops (about 1- to 1 1/4-inches thick) are best for brining and cooking if you want to keep the meat from drying out.
The bone-in chops are my favorite—I think they have more flavor, like anything that is cooked on the bone. You can also use boneless chops, which are actually bone-in rib chops with the bone cut away. Both are very lean, which leads me to the next point.
BRINED PORK CHOPS ARE JUICIER
I confess that since I am not much of a planner, I am therefore not much of a briner. Still, I took the plunge this time and added patience to my cooking style.
I was delighted with the taste and texture of these cooked chops: perfectly moist inside with a touch of sweetness from the brine.
Yes, you can make this recipe without the brining, but I heartily recommend doing it. Why? Pork chops are ultra lean, and the lack of fat content makes them susceptible to drying out during the cooking process.
Brining helps counter this. A brine is a liquid solution with salt and other flavorful ingredients, into which the chops are submerged for a period of time. This brining causes the protein strands in the meat to relax and uncoil, forming a web that traps moisture.
I took my cue for the brine from Elise’s brined chops. Preparing the brine takes only about five minutes, so you can pop the chops into a zipper bag with the brine and leave them all day or overnight in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook. You just have to remember to do it!
HOW TO PAN SEAR PORK CHOPS
Start by heating the oil in a large skillet until it glides easily across the pan when you tilt it. Add the brined chops, sear them on both sides, then continue to cook, turning every minute or so, or until they’re cooked through and a deep golden brown. This only takes about 10 minutes!
After the pork chops are browned, the fun begins.
Add some sage leaves to the pan with smashed garlic cloves and lemon slices. Wait twenty to thirty seconds for the sage leaves to crisp and remove them.
Meanwhile, the lemon slices and garlic flavor the oil in the pan, and once the oil is infused and the lemons look pretty (save them for garnish), out they go, and in go the rinsed greens.
The greens soak up all the porky, garlicky, lemony deliciousness already in the pan. As if that wasn’t enough, you only have one pan to wash!
GREENS COOK IN MINUTES!
The beauty of greens is that they cook quickly (in this case, while the pork rests), and they pick up all the flavors from the pan in the process. You’ll want to rinse them and shake a bit of the water off—not all. Do this even if the package says they’ve been washed—you need that moisture to help them wilt.
Also, their hint of bitterness contrasts well with the richness of the meat. I used kale (two bunches) in this recipe, but you could use chard, or any other sturdy green you choose.
CRISPY SAGE LEAVES MAKE IT FANCY
You are such a fancy-pants with these sage leaves! Magic without a wand! Who knew that with 20 to 30 seconds in hot oil the leaves could become your own secret little chef-like touch?
They’re great to garnish squash soup, pasta or roasted winter vegetables, too.
LOVE PORK CHOPS? TRY THESE RECIPES NEXT TIME!
Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Garlic and Greens Recipe
For the brine
- 5 cups water
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3 bay leaves, broken into pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, lightly crushed
- 1 sprig thyme
- 4 wide strips of lemon peel, made with a vegetable peeler
For the chops
- 4 (1- to 1 1/4-inch thick) rib pork chops, preferably bone-in (8 to 9 ounces each)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 8 to 12 sage leaves
- 4 (1/4-inch thick) lemon slices
For the greens
- 4 big handfuls stemmed greens (chard, kale, or mustard greens), coarsely chopped (about 8 ounces once prepped), rinsed, even if “prewashed” and prepackaged.
1 Brine the pork chops at least 8 hours ahead of time: In a small saucepan combine 1 cup of the water, sugar, salt, bay leaves, coriander seed, thyme, and lemon peel. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat.
Fill a 4-cup measuring cup with 2 to 3 cups of ice cubes and add enough cold water to measure 4 cups. Add to the saucepan with the brine and stir until the ice has melted (this helps to quickly cool the brine).
Place the chops in a 1-gallon zipper freezer bag. Place the bag in a bowl and pour the cooled brine into the bag. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 8 hours, or for up to 2 days.
2 Cook the chops: When ready to cook, remove the chops from the brine and pat them dry with a paper towel. Set another paper towel on a small plate for the sage leaves and lemon slices.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the chops and cook them for 2 minutes on a side, or until starting to brown. Continue to cook the chops, turning about every minute, for about 4 to 6 minutes longer, or until the chops are deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 135ºF.
Total cooking time is 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of chops.
3 Rest the chops: Transfer the chops to a plate, cover loosely with foil to keep warm and let rest for at least 5 minutes. The temperature of the chops will tick up to 145°F, the recommended temperature for cooked pork, as it sits.
4 Cook the sage leaves, garlic, and lemon: Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Return the pan to the heat and add the sage leaves, garlic, and lemon slices to the pan.
Tilt the skillet so the pan drippings are on one side and move the sage leaves to the drippings. Fry the leaves for 20 to 30 seconds, or until crisp. Transfer them to the paper towel-lined plate.
With the pan flat on the burner, continue cooking the garlic and lemon slices, turning often, for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the lemon slices are charred.
Transfer the garlic and lemon slices to the paper towel-lined plate with the sage leaves. Discard the garlic and save the lemon slices to garnish the chops.
5 Cook the greens. With the pan over medium-high heat, add the greens along with any water still clinging to the leaves. Cook, turning often, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until wilted.
6 Serve the chops. Divide the greens between the plates. Place a pork chop atop the greens, a lemon slice, and some crispy sage leaves, and serve.
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