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Pork Chops with Sugar-Roasted Peaches, Fennel, and Cheddar Grits

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Serves 4

  • by Bill Taibe from Fine Cooking
    Issue 118

The sweetness and acidity of roasted peaches offsets creamy, cheesy grits and salty pork chops in this dish, keeping the richness in check. The fennel adds a subtle licorice note that’s delicious with the fruit and the meat. Charleston Favorites stone-ground grits have a true corn flavor is unparalleled—but you can use any coarse grits you like as long as they aren’t instant, which won’t have the right texture.

For the grits:
  • 3 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup stone-ground white or yellow grits
  • 3 oz. (1 cup) coarsely grated sharp Cheddar
  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/2 oz. (1/4 cup) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 7 dashes (1/4 tsp.) hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pork chops and fennel:
  • 4 thick bone-in center-cut pork chops (1-1/2 inches thick; about 3 lb.)
  • 2 tsp. ground fennel seed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 4 large sprigs fresh summer or winter savory, thyme, or rosemary
  • 1 small fennel bulb (10 oz.), trimmed, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces (about 1-3/4 cups)
  • 4 Sugar-Roasted Peach halves, quartered

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.
 

Make the grits:

In a 4-quart saucepan, bring the broth and milk to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the grits in a steady stream, whisking constantly. When they come to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. The grits will not be entirely tender at this point. Whisk in 1/2 cup warm water and continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until big, slow bubbles begin to pop on the surface, about 15 minutes more.

Stir in the Cheddar, butter, Parmigiano, and hot sauce. Season to taste with plenty of salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring often, until the flavors are well blended and the grits are creamy and tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat, cover, and keep warm on the back of the stove.

Roast the pork chops and fennel:

Season the pork chops on both sides with the ground fennel and a generous amount of salt and pepper, pressing the seasonings into the chops to help them adhere.

Heat the oil and 2 Tbs. of the butter in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the herb sprigs and toss to coat with the fat. Arrange the chops in the skillet and cook undisturbed until deep golden-brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip the chops and cook until the other side is deep golden-brown, about 4 minutes more. Transfer the chops to a cutting board (they will not be fully cooked).

Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel and toss well to coat. Return the chops to the skillet and nestle them and the peaches into the fennel. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a chop reads 145°F, about 6 minutes.

Top each chop with 1/2 Tbs. of the remaining butter and let the chops rest on a plate for at least 5 minutes. Serve with the grits, fennel, peaches, a drizzle of pan juices, and a fine grind of black pepper.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 1040; Fat (g): 69; Fat Calories (kcal): 610; Saturated Fat (g): 34; Protein (g): 57; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 23; Carbohydrates (g): 51; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 6; Sodium (mg): 820; Cholesterol (mg): 225; Fiber (g): 5;

Photo: Colin Clark

I just did the grits tonight and also added only half the butter. Added seven good "plops" Tabasco which was just the right amount for us. Look forward to making the rest of the recipe when the weather cools.

This was a big hit at family dinner tonight. My changes: added half the butter called for to the grits, and no butter on the pork-chops after cooking. I held the hot sauce in the grits for the table since everyone's heat tolerance varies. I suggest cutting the fennel into slightly smaller pieces than called for - I preferred the taste/texture of the pieces that were more cooked. I used fresh rosemary for both the sugar roasted peaches and again in the chops. This combination will definitely be a repeater in our house.

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