Orange and anise-brined pork chops are topped with a savory sauce of smoked figs and Asian pears and a crunchy, sweet and salty cashew crumble.Jump to Recipe
My brother and sister-in-law have a beautiful Asian pear tree in their backyard. Every year, I am lucky to share in the crop and love the challenge of coming up with new recipe ideas for this lovely fruit. This fall season I have been on a kick with my Traeger smoker and thought the Asian pears would be delicious in smoked form….and they are!! Once smoked they turn from golden yellow to a rich chocolate brown color and have just a perfect hint of smoky flavor to play against their crisp sweetness.
Designing the dish:
I love pork with pears, so in thinking of a dish that would have layers of flavors and textures, this orange anise brined pork with smoked figs, Asian pears and cashew crumble was born. Brining the pork adds moisture to the meat while the salt starts to break down the proteins, making the chops extra tender. There is also an infusion of flavor going on in the brining process, so the orange and anise flavors really permeate the meat. While smoking the fruits for the sauce is not a necessity, it adds extra richness with the hints of smoke so I highly recommend it if you have a smoker or can do so on a grill. With all of the soft textures in the sauce, I wanted to add some kind of crunch. The cashew crumble also has a smoked element with the cashews, but feel free to just go raw and you will have an equally delicious result! I recommend doubling the crumble recipe, as it makes a delicious snack while you are cooking!
To round out the meal I made some garlicky wild rice and sautéed some bitter greens: radicchio, chard and kale.
The wine I chose is the stunning Maysara Arsheen Pinot Gris from Maysara Winery in McMinnville, OR. This is a really flavorful and fresh biodynamic wine that also has plenty of its own layers of flavor and texture. The wine has crisp acidity, yet a luscious mouthfeel and plenty of gently sweet golden fruits on the palate. It makes for a nice contrast to the richness of the pork and brings out the flavors of the fruit and spice in the dish.
Orange Anise Brined Pork with Smoked Figs, Asian Pears and Cashew Crumble
- 1 cup raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- Juice of 2 oranges
- 1 tablespoon aniseed
- Four 6-ounce boneless pork loin steaks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 large smoked or fresh Asian pears, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
- 12 dried and smoked or plain black Mission figs, see notes
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/3 cup chopped raw or smoked cashews
FOR THE BRINE:
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl, whisking until salt and sugar are mostly dissolved. Transfer to a large Ziploc bag and add the pork, pressing air out of the bag when sealing. Place bag in a pan or large bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).
- Remove pork from brine, blot dry with paper towels and rub with the tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside in refrigerator until ready to grill.
FOR THE SAUCE:
- In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter. Add the shallot and cook until starting to soften over medium heat. Add the pear slices and figs and sauté until the pears are softening but not falling apart. Add the orange juice and red wine vinegar and cook until slightly thickened. Keep warm while grilling pork.
FOR THE CASHEW CRUMBLE:
- Melt butter over medium heat in small, heavy skillet. Add the brown sugar and salt, stirring until bubbly. Add the cashews and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is nicely coated and glossy. Remove from heat and cool.
- Preheat grill. Cook pork steaks over high heat to get a nice char on the meat, then reduce flame and cook through. Transfer pork steaks to plates and divide sauce evenly over top. Sprinkle with a little of the cashew crumble.
Smoked Fruits and Nuts:
- Mission Figs: Soak dried figs until very soft. Place in smoker at 180 degrees in a small pan and smoke for about 1 hour or until desired flavor is reached.
- Asian Pears: Smoke whole pears at 180 degrees in smoker for 30-45 minutes until browned and slightly softened.
- Cashews: Place raw whole cashews in a small metal pan and place in smoker at 180 degrees for about 1 hour or until desired flavor is reached.