Some people believe there’s a correlation between beautiful food and difficult food. However, I don’t believe the two go hand-in-hand, and today’s Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apple Cider Cream Sauce prove it. We brine and then pan-sear pork chops until golden brown and juicy, then simmer them in a brown butter apple cider cream sauce and fried sage leaves.
Pan-Seared Pork Chops Apple Cider Cream Sauce
It doesn’t take a discerning eye to immediately notice the beauty of our Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apple Cider Cream Sauce. The golden brown crust. The glistening flavor-flecked sauce. The crispy fried sage leaves. It’s all quite visually stunning. And while yes, this meal is in my opinion, beautiful, it’s actually quite simple to put together. Which is what makes it a true winner.
With hints of nutty brown butter, fried sage and apple cider, it’s also a meal which fits perfectly into the lineup of other fall/winter goodies happening this time of year.
We brine bone-in pork chops (bone-in is important!), and then are sear them in brown butter in a cast-iron skillet. To make sure they don’t brown too much before cooking through, we pop them into the oven to finish cooking.
When they come out, we throw in apple cider, tangy mustard, and a splash of cream to bring the dish full circle. Spoon the sauce on top, sprinkle with fried sage leaves and DIG IN.
Aside from the brining process (which isn’t really mandatory, more on that later), the meal comes together in about 30 minutes, or less. It’s honestly one of the easiest, most impressive meals you make this winter.
Ingredients in Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apple Cider Cream Sauce
Pork chops. You want to use bone-in pork chops for two reasons. First, they’re pretty. Second, anything with a bone in it is going to come out juicer than if it didn’t. Pork can easily dry out, so it makes sense too simply leave the bone in.
Butter. Like a lot of our winter recipes (these brown butter scallops and this Ravioli with Brown Butter come come to mine), we use brown butter to add richness and warmth to dishes. Cooking the pork chops in brown butter gives the pork chops a nice crust and adds SO much flavor.
Sage. The combination of brown butter and sage, in my opinion, is one of the great ingredients pairings in this world. One of my very favorite flavor combinations of all time is brown butter and sage. I’ve used the combination in tons of recipe over the course of this blog’s life, a few of my favorites – this Five Ingredient Faux Roasted Chicken, this Pomegranate Roast Chicken and this Butternut Squash & Spinach Lasagna. Sometimes the flavor is in your face (which I love), and sometimes it’s more subtle, like today (which I also love).
Apple cider. Just like pumpkin, apple cider seems to inadvertently fall into the sweets category more often than not, but it also makes a lovely addition to a bevy of savory foods. Here, we use it in two ways. First to brine the pork chops. And second, as a balancing act between tangy whole-grain mustard and acidic apple cider vinegar in the sauce.
Apple cider vinegar.
Dijon mustard. Dijon mustard adds a nice tang to the sauce and pairs nicely with the apple cider.
Cream. You’ll want to use heavy cream and not half and half or you risk the sauce curdling.
Sugar. A little sweetness is needed to balance out all the acid. You could also use honey or maple syrup as well.
Brining Pork Chops
If you’re not familiar, brining is a way to infuse plenty of moisture AND flavor into meat. It’s typically an almost equal part of liquid to salt and sometimes sugar. Here’s our lineup:
- Apple cider
- Salt (Three tablespoons)
- Apple cider vinegar.
Because pork chops weigh less than a pound, it’s really not necessary to brine them longer than an hour or two. Mine sat in the solution for about an hour, and they came out SO moist and flavorful. While I do recommend the brining process, you don’t HAVE to do it. Because the meat doesn’t cook for a very long time, you shouldn’t end up with pork chops that have the texture of beef jerky if you cook them correctly.
How to cook pork chops on the stove
If you’re afraid of cooking pork chops, don’t be. It’s honestly very similar to cooking any other kind of protein, but just like chicken, they have a tendency to dry out rather quickly, so try to avoid overcooking.
Although, first thing’s first. I HIGHLY recommend using a cast-iron skillet. It sears protein SO well, and unlike a normal sauté pan, it’s hard for anything to stick to it. I have one very similar to this, and it’s something I use almost daily.
After you pull the pork chops out of the brine, you’re going to want to pat them completely dry – another essential step in a perfect sear. If there is too much residual moisture on the meat, it’s not going to get the golden brown crust you see in the photos. When the meat is dry, season with lots of salt. Don’t be shy! A well-seasoned piece of meat is the difference between a bland and stellar end product.
Make the brown butter
We’ve talked about browning butter a hundred times before here, but if you’re new, you want to start with a super hot pan. Add the butter, then as it melts, swirl the pan. Normally, you’d take it all the way to the browning point, but since the pork chops are being cooked in it, when the butter starts to turn chestnut in color and smell nutty, you immediately put the chops in. Let them sear for a good 2-3 minutes, then flip and sear on the other side for another minute or so.
From there, we pull the chops out for a moment, and throw the sage in to fry. Pull the sage out, put the chops back, pour in a little apple cider and pop them in the oven.
To make sure you cook the pan seared pork chops correctly, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. It should read 145 degrees. It happens fasts, so it will likely only need a few more minutes to cook. If your chops are thin enough, you may not even need the oven at all, just be sure to check!
Cider Sauce for Pork Chops
Ok, so the apple cider cream sauce. Oh, the sauce. This stuff is liquid GOLD. So good.
After the pork chops sear and cook in the oven, they, along with the brown butter leave the most delicious bits of flavor in the bottom of the pan. Keep them!
Throw in a little bit of apple cider vinegar and whole-grain mustard into what’s left of the liquid in the pan to deglaze it. We whisk in more apple cider and cream and let it bubble away until thickened.
What to serve with pan-seared pork chops with sage and apple cider cream sauce.
- Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes (Recipe listed below). We love the tangy goat cheese paired with the pork chops and apple cider.
- Our Creamy Dreamy Mashed Potatoes would also be the perfect base for the pan-sear pork chops and apple cider cream sauce!
- We also love to serve them with this One Pot Creamy Parmesan Pasta
Other awesome AND easy fall/winter recipes:
Pretty things and tools used in today’s post:
- 1 1/4 cup apple cider, divided
- 3 tbsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar, divided
- 2 bone-in pork chops
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 20 sage leaves
- 2 tsp whole-grain mustard
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp white sugar
Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes
- 1 1/2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
- 5 oz goat cheese
- 1/2 cup + 1/8 cup 1/2 & 1/2
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Cast iron skillet
- 1-2 hours before cooking, add 1 cup apple cider, 3 tablespoons salt and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a large plastic ziplock. Add pork chops. Place in a shallow dish and let it soak for 1-2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove pork chops from the baggie and pat dry with paper towels. You want the chops to be completely dry. Season liberally with salt. Heat a large cast-iron skillet to a medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter. Swirl the pan and when the butter begins to brown, turn the heat down to medium and add pork chops. Sear until golden brown and crusty, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes until seared on the other side.
- Remove chops from pan and set on a plate. Cover with foil. Add remaining butter to the pan, and when it starts to brown, add sage. Fry sage leaves for 30 seconds or until slightly brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Use an instant read thermometer to see If the pork chops are at 145 degrees. If they are, continue to make the sauce, if they aren't, add back to the pan and place in the oven until they reach 145 degrees. I had to do this for about 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the chops from the pan again, and set on a plate. Cover with foil. Set the pan back over a medium heat. Add vinegar and mustard to the pan. Whisk until combined. (It will spatter, that's ok). Whisk in remaining apple cider, cream or half and half and sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve pork chops over mashed potatoes. Spoon sauce over and sprinkle with fried sage leaves.
Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes
- Cut potatoes into quarters. Add to a medium stock pot. Cover with water. Season water with salt. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain.
- Add potatoes back to pan, along with goat cheese, half and half, butter and salt. Use a potato masher to smash the potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.