Monday, July 9, 2012

It Tastes Better Than It Looks! I Promise!

You can't completely discount ugly food.  Sometimes, ugly food has a lot more to offer.  Diamonds in the rough of the food world.  :)

There are two kinds of ugly food: food that is ugly naturally and food that is ugly after it has been prepared.  This dish doesn't start out ugly, but it definitely ends up ugly.  :)

Sometimes I wonder who in the world thought to eat certain things.  People must have watched animals eat things and then decided to try it for themselves.  Because otherwise, who would have ever thought that eating a kiwi or a pineapple would be a good idea?  Asparagus?  Artichokes?  I love them all.  But on first glance, they don't LOOK like food.  Fuzzy, poky, etc. I mean, it makes perfect sense to eat a strawberry, raspberry, apple, etc.  They just look scrumptious!  So inviting.

We certainly benefit from the generations that came before us, that's for sure.  I mean, who thought to harvest wheat?  It just looks like wild grass or a weed.  And then after they harvested it, who thought to grind it into flour, combine it with oil, etc. and bake it into bread?  I mean, we don't have to come up with this stuff!  We just look up a recipe for it.  There are thousands of scrumptious bread recipes out there!  And thank goodness we don't have to rely on scythes anymore!  Life is soooo busy now. I can't even imagine how busy it was before we had time-saving devices and technologies.

But let me get back on track...back to ugly food.  I had some pork chops in my freezer and I wanted to try something different, yet foolproof because I don't make pork chops very often.  And anyone who has made them knows that if they aren't cooked just right, they can be really tough and dry.  So, in my searches, I found a recipe for pork chops by Alton Brown of Food Network fame.  He has a fascinating show called Good Eats.  In his show, as he makes recipes, he explains the scientific reasoning behind it all.  It's so interesting.  And his recipes are tried and true...literally tested in the laboratory!  However, often his recipes are very labor-intensive.  I was very surprised to find that this was a slow cooker recipe.  You don't find a lot of slow cooker recipes highlighted on cooking shows these days.  So, I was intrigued and I decided to try it.  It does take some prep work.  I mean, it is an Alton Brown recipe.  So, you don't just throw it all in the slow cooker.  There are steps and you have to plan ahead.

It was FANTASTIC.  It was seriously so flavorful, juicy, and tender.  All of the things you hope for in a good pork chop.  The only drawback?  It was UGLY!  Kudos to the food stylist who photographed the pork chops for the website, because he made them look presentable.  I, on the other hand, was not able to.  Most slow cooker recipes aren't super gorgeous anyway.  They taste great, but after simmering for hours, they don't tend to look breathtaking.  This recipe calls for onions and my son asked me why we were having snakes for dinner.  I'm not going to lie, these onions did look a little like worms or snakes.  Shiver!

But trust me.  It tastes better than it looks!  And that's a promise!

Slow Cooker Pepper Pork Chops


2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup kosher salt (see notes)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, slightly crushed
1 pound ice
4 (1 to 1 1/2-inch thick) bone-in pork chops
2 teaspoons kosher salt (see notes)
3 ounces dried apple slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, julienned
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme


Combine the vegetable broth, 1/2 cup kosher salt, brown sugar, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat.  Cook, just until the salt and sugar dissolve, then remove from the heat and add the ice.  Place the pork chops into a 2-gallon zip-top bag along with the mixture and seal.  Place in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the chops from the brine, rinse, and pat dry.  Season on both sides with the kosher salt and set aside.

Place the apples in the slow cooker.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch stainless steel saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute the pork chops on both sides until golden brown, approximately 5-6 minutes per side. Once browned, place the pork chops into the slow cooker atop the apples.

Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan followed by the onions and saute until they begin to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken broth to the pan to deglaze.  Add the black pepper and thyme and stir to combine. Transfer this to the slow cooker, set to high, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.  Decrease the heat to low and continue cooking for another 4 hours and 30 minutes or until the pork is tender and falling away from the bone.

Serves 4

Nutrition information: 347 calories, 17 g fat, 24 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 18 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 77 mg cholesterol, 4,150 mg sodium.

Source: Food Network recipe by Alton Brown, originally found here.

Notes: This is VERY important.  If you have table salt but not kosher salt, use HALF as much.  Kosher salt and table salt are a different size and consistency.  It will be too, too salty if you use 1/2 cup of table salt.  1/2 cup of kosher salt is more like 1/4 cup of table salt.

Also, don't use fresh apples for this recipe.  They would just cook down to nothing and fall apart.  It would still taste fine, but you wouldn't have any apples to pair with your pork when you eat it.

Above: Might I suggest that you serve the onions on the side rather than on top of the pork chops to minimize the snake/worm-like appearance.  Shiver!  But really, I promise, these pork chops had such great flavor!  Just close your eyes and dig in.


  1. Ha ha! That Pete. How cute is that?? Did he eat the snakes?

    I think that's one of the reasons that Nephi doesn't like crockpot cooking. A lot of times everything tends to come out looking the same color. And the tastes do meld together and it's harder to pick them out. But you can't beat the convenience.

    I have never brined pork before. I bet it was tender.

  2. Peter did not eat this dinner at all. We tried to get him to, but I think he couldn't get past the snake/worm look. Besides that, he had a hefty lunch that day and I don't think he was very hungry. But both Jeremiah and I loved it. Jonathan ate it...but then he eats everything. :)