Whether you're planning a low-key holiday meal or sneaking in a midweek dinner date amid other holiday plans, put these tender pork chops glazed with brown sugar on your list. It's one of those dishes that is so easy and so simple, and yet feels like a special feast all its own.
A quick brine is one of my favorite ways to add flavor to thin cuts of meat like pork chops and also ensure that they stay juicy and tender during cooking. Infusing the brine with chopped sage gives the pork just a breath of piney, woodsy flavor — which hits just the right note with the sweet brown sugar glaze.
It wasn't until I was writing up this recipe that I realized it's not only a meal for two people, all the ingredients come in "two's" as well! This also makes it easy to double or even triple the recipe if you have more guests. If your skillet isn't big enough to sear and bake all the pork chops at once, you can heat a baking sheet in the oven, then sear the chops in batches and transfer them to the baking sheet to finish cooking.
Sage-Brined Pork Chops with Brown Sugar Glaze
2 cups water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
2 1-inch thick, center-cut, boneless pork chops (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Heat one cup of the water to a simmer either on the stovetop or in the microwave. Add the salt and sage, and stir until the salt has dissolved. Mix in a second cup of cold water to cool the brine down and let stand until the mixture is lukewarm.
Place the pork loins in a shallow dish and pour the brine solution over top. The brine should completely cover the pork. If not, either transfer the pork to a smaller container or flip the pork halfway through brining. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.
When ready to cook, place a cast-iron, stainless steel, or other oven-safe skillet in the oven on a center rack. Heat the oven to 400°F. Remove the pork loins from the brine solution, pat dry, and let them warm on the counter while the oven is heating. Discard the brine.
Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and place it over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Rub the pork loins with vegetable oil and lay them in the center of the pan about an inch apart. Sear for about 3 minutes or until the underside of the pork chop is golden.
Flip the pork chops and spread a tablespoon of brown sugar over the surface of each chop. Immediately place the pan in the oven. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until the center of the chops are just barely pink and register 140°F to 145°F on an instant-read thermometer. If the brown sugar hasn't quite completely melted, run the pan under the broiler for a few seconds.
Remove the pork chops from the pan and cover with aluminum foil while you plate the rest of your meal. (Do not leave them sitting in the pan or they will over-cook and become tough.) Spoon some of the pan juices over the pork chops just before serving.
(Image: Emma Christensen)