Laziness is occasionally the mother of very tasty invention. In this case, it was a desire for something other than my usual weeknight pork chops combined with a distinct lack of desire to actually...well...cook. Ahem. The solution — stuffing the pork chops with a mix of toasted pine nuts, dried porcini mushrooms, and a handful of snowy pecorino — is both the ultimate in convenience and the ultimate in deliciousness. It's a win-win supper situation.
I really wanted a filling for these pork chops that didn't need to be cooked beforehand (see above: laziness). Some kind of nut was a given, and I love the buttery, mild nature of pine nuts here. Cheese was also definitely going into the mix, as usually happens in my kitchen, and nutty pecorino seemed like a good companion to the pine nuts.
I needed one more ingredient to make this a trifecta, and for that I turned to a packet of dried mushrooms stashed in the back of the cabinet. Until Dana's recent post on preparing dried mushrooms, I had completely forgotten what a fantastic convenience these things can be. Just pop them in some water for a few minutes and they plump into ready-to-use mushrooms almost magically. I used porcinis, but you could use any dried mushroom you have around. Along with a sprinkle of fresh rosemary, they add that final deep savory element my stuffed chops needed.
At heart, these are still our easy oven-cooked pork chops. Nothing tricky or overly fancy here — though you could definitely make them for a date night and win yourself some brownie points. Pair it with a crisp white wine and a simple side salad for all-out dinner bliss.
Pork Chops Stuffed with Pine Nuts, Porcini Mushrooms, and Pecorino
2 pork chops, (about 1 pound each)
2 whole stems rosemary
1/4 ounce (roughly 1/4 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup shredded pecorino cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper
Place the pork chops in a shallow baking dish. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of salt in 1 cup warm tap water. Mix with 2 cups of cold tap water and pour over the pork chops. Tuck the stems of rosemary around the pork chops. Brine for 20 minutes or up to 6 hours (refrigerate if brining for more than 20 minutes).
Cover the mushrooms in lukewarm tap water and let them soak for about 20 minutes. When completely soft, remove the mushrooms with a spoon, transfer them to a strainer, and rinse them under cool water. Mince finely. (The soaking liquid can be saved for another recipe; for more details see: How to Work with Dried Mushrooms)
Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Monitor them closely and shake the pan every few seconds. Watch for the pine nuts to start developing golden toasted spots on their sides — watch them like a hawk as this can happen very quickly. As soon as the majority of the pine nuts have spots, transfer them immediately to a clean container.
In a mixing bowl, combine the minced mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, pecorino, minced rosemary, and a few sprinkles of salt. Using a spoon or your fingers, mix the ingredients together until completely combined.
Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat them dry with paper towels. With your knife parallel to the cutting board, cut deep pockets into the sides of the pork chops. Divide the filling mixture between the pockets and press gently to sandwich the filling.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Place a nonstick or cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat as well. Once the oven is hot, use oven mitts to carefully remove the hot skillet and set it over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Turn on a vent fan or open a window.
Lay the pork chops in the hot skillet. You should hear them immediately begin to sizzle. Sear until the undersides of the chops are seared golden, 3 minutes. The chops may start to smoke a little — that's ok. Turn down the heat if it becomes excessive.
Use tongs to flip the pork chops to the other side. Immediately transfer the skillet to the oven using oven mitts. Roast until the pork chops are cooked through and register 140°F to 145°F in the thickest part of the meat with an instant-read thermometer. Cooking time will be 6 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the chops, how cool they were at the start of cooking, and whether they were brined. Start checking the chops at 6 minutes and continue checking every minute or two until the chops are cooked through.
Transfer the cooked pork chops to a plate and pour any pan juices over the top (or reserve for making a pan sauce or gravy). Tent loosely with foil and let the chops rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.