Double Pork Stuffed Chops
2 center cut (bone in) Pork chops (bigger = easier to stuff)
2 "sweet" and 2 "spicy" Italian sausages
1 fair sized pepper (color of choice)
1 package frozen spinach (or 1 lb fresh)
1 small can of sliced mushrooms (or a decent sized portabella)
1 normal sized onion
1 tbsp tarragon
.5 teaspoon basil and oregano
Garlic to taste (i prefer fresh to powdered, either will do)
Dash of salt and pepper
Olive oil or butter
.5 cup of ricotta or fresh parmesan cheese (optional)
Dice onion into small pieces. If using a whole mushroom, dice it likewise. Canned mushrooms generally don't need any other processing. Cut pepper into thin slices, then cut those in half. If using frozen spinach, thaw it out as per instructions on package. If using fresh, make sure you rinse well. Butterfly cut the chops. That means to cut them in half dorsally, from the edge of the chop to the bone. This will make a pocket where your stuffing can live.
In a large pan , lightly apply butter or olive oil, and begin by slowly caramelizing the onions. They should be just about translucent when you add in the mushrooms, peppers, and then spinach. Each should be added a few minutes from each other, allowing time for the last layer to cook some before adding the next. Once all your vegetable matter is simmering in the pan, add your spices, and stir well. Let simmer on a low heat for a short time, while you move on to the next step.
Slice the casings off the sausages, removing the ground sausage matter in small clumps. You can use ground sausage in lieu of links if it is available (which is easier) but it is sometimes dicey to calculate volume. I have found the ratio of 1 sweet and 1 hot link to a pork chop, along with the other ingredients, tends to hold well. Add the sausage meat to the mix of vegetables, and stir well. Cover and continue to simmer for several minutes. As the sausage cooks, the condensation from the water in the veggies, as well as the grease will build up. Be sure to drain it if there gets to be too much, you want to fry the sausage, not par-boil it.
Line the interior of your chop with about ¼ cup of cheese. This helps contain the moisture of the stuffing.
Make sure to work over well the stuffing mix with your spatula or spoon, so that there are no large clumps of sausage – everything should come down to a smallish consistency.
Stuff the chops. Make sure you can close them once you have stuffed them. You can seal with wooden toothpicks or sew them closed if you are feeling really fancy (I have never found a need to do this, but it is an option). Roll the chops in breadcrumbs so they are well coated. If you have leftover stuffing you can lay it on top of the stuffed breaded chops. Put the chops in a baking pan (meat rack preferable – if you don’t have one, just grease the pan so the chops don’t stick) – and bake at 375 for at least an hour. Depending on the size of the chops, and how much they are stuffed, it may take more or less time to get things “done”.
A good rule of thumb is if you see marrow coming out of the chop bone, the chop is probably done.
Add a coating of mozzarella cheese to the chops 5 minutes before serving, so it is nicely melted.
Serve with a good red wine, and choice of starch.
The above recipe can be adapted to a pork loin (which is easier to prepare when serving large parties). Loins can be prepared ahead of time, then frozen. Thaw them naturally the day of cooking, and cook longer at a lower heat than the chops – allowing for partially frozen stuffing if you tried to cut corners thawing. I generally cook at 325 for 2 hours, sometimes more or less. A loin is easier to test – you can jab the pork with a fork to test for doneness, or use a meat thermometer. The only major change is that when stuffing a loin, you need to have slightly more advanced butchering technique, so that you can re-roll, then tie the roast in order to breadcrumb it.
The stuffing can also be changed up a lot. You can use different types of meat and spices for a varioation of flavors. Try apples, chicken breast, honey and cinnamon with raisins. You can also use lamb, curry, and cabbage. The best experiment i have had to date was crab meat, sage, capers, and carrots. Experiment with meats and flavors you like in one dish, and add them to the stuffing to see what you end up with. The above ingreedients give a good southern itallian blend of flavor, with a robust combonation of aromas and spices.