Brined Pork Chops with Apple Ginger Sauce and Farro

The secret to juicy pork chops, which can easily become dry when grilled or baked, is brining. It really does make all the difference and renders the meat not only succulent but extra-flavourful.

I use rib chops, but loin works, too. Serve them alongside broccoli greens, Swiss chard or sautéed bok choy and a scoop or two of farro. The ancient grain, a strain of hard wheat that originates from the Fertile Crescent, is sometimes called emmer in North America. It has a firm texture, reheats well and, while it doesn’t become mushy, it does a good job of absorbing seasonings such as the aromatic garam masala and ginger used here.

Ready time: 1 hour, not including brining time
Servings: 4

Chops:

1 cup apple cider

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup maple syrup

3 star anise

3 cups water

4 1 1/2-inch-thick pork rib chops

Pepper to taste

Farro:

1 1/2 cups farro

4 cups chicken stock or water

2 teaspoons chopped ginger

1 star anise

1 teaspoon garam masala

6 cups baby spinach

2 tablespoons butter

Salt to taste

Sauce:

2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cups apple juice

2 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup cold butter, diced

To make the brine, place the cider, salt, maple syrup, anise and 1 cup of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt, then remove from heat. Add remaining water and cool completely.

Place pork chops in 1 or 2 sealable plastic bags. Pour enough brine over the chops to completely fill the bags. Seal and refrigerate for 12 hours.

Remove chops, drain well and pat dry. Season with pepper.

To make the farro, rinse the grain with cold water and place in a pot over high heat. Add stock, ginger, star anise and garam masala. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until farro is tender but still has a little bite to it. Drain any liquid and add spinach and butter. Cover and steam until spinach is wilted. Season well with salt.

To cook the chops, preheat the oven to 450 F. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chops in batches and sear on each side for about 2 minutes per side or until golden. Remove chops to a baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until centre is just slightly pink, turning once. Remove from oven and place on a plate to rest.

To make the sauce while the chops are baking, add ginger, lemon juice, apple juice and stock to the skillet. Boil until reduced by half. Lower the heat and stir in butter.

Place farro on a plate and top with pork chops. Drizzle sauce over the meat.