WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Porc à la Normande is the epitome of the classic pork-and-apples flavor pairing. A dish that has graced French tables for hundreds of years, it features an elegant presentation of pork accompanied by sautéed apples that are cut into chunks, rings, or even tournées (oblong football shapes), while a complex, rich sauce made with flambéed Calvados (a French apple brandy) brings everything together. While traditional versions require hours and an arsenal of pots, we wanted an elegant rendition featuring perfectly cooked pork and apples and a savory sauce rich with complex apple flavor—without requiring a lot of time or cookware. In pursuit of this, part of our testing process included skipping the flambéing step—but in doing so we realized how critical flambéing is to the dish’s success. Flambéing the sauce not only removes some alcohol but also makes a very noticeable difference in flavor, producing a deeper, more complex-tasting sauce. So we kept it; adding the Calvados in two stages and flambéing after each addition kept the height of the flames and their burning time to a minimum. We prefer natural pork, but if the pork is enhanced (injected with a salt solution), decrease the salt in step 1 to ½ teaspoon per chop. To ensure that they fit in the skillet, choose apples that are approximately 3 inches in diameter. Applejack or regular brandy can be used in place of the Calvados. The amount of vinegar to add in step 6 will vary depending on the sweetness of your cider.
4 (12- to 14-ounce) bone-in pork rib chops, 1 inch thick, trimmed
3¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
4 Gala or Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cored, divided
2 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
3 shallots, sliced
Pinch ground nutmeg
½ cup Calvados, divided
1¾ cups apple cider
1¼ cups chicken broth, divided
4 sprigs fresh thyme plus ¼ teaspoon minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
½–1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 Evenly sprinkle each chop with ¾ teaspoon salt. Place chops on large plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2 While chops rest, cut 2 apples into ½-inch pieces. Cook bacon in medium saucepan over medium heat until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Add shallots, nutmeg, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are softened and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Off heat, add ¼ cup Calvados and let warm through, about 5 seconds. Wave lit fireplace match or wooden skewer over saucepan until Calvados ignites, then shake saucepan gently to distribute flames. After flames subside, 30 to 60 seconds, cover saucepan to ensure flame is extinguished, 15 seconds. Add remaining ¼ cup Calvados and repeat flambéing (flames will subside after 1½ to 2 minutes). (If you have trouble igniting second addition, return saucepan to medium heat and bring to bare simmer, then remove
from heat and try again.)
3 Once flames have extinguished, increase heat to medium-high. Add cider, 1 cup broth, thyme sprigs, butter, and chopped apples and bring to rapid simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are very tender and mixture has reduced to 2⅓ cups, 25 to 35 minutes. Cover and set aside.
4 Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Slice remaining 2 apples into ½-inch-thick rings. Pat chops dry with paper towels and season each chop with ¼ teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until just beginning to smoke. Increase heat to high and brown chops on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer chops to large plate and reduce heat to medium. Add apple rings to skillet and cook until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining ¼ cup broth and cook, scraping up any browned bits with rubber spatula, until liquid has evaporated, about 30 seconds. Remove skillet from heat, flip apple rings, and place chops on top of apple rings. Place skillet in oven and cook until chops register 135 to 140 degrees, 11 to 15 minutes.
5 Transfer chops and apple rings to platter, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. While chops rest, strain apple-brandy mixture through fine-mesh strainer set in large bowl, pressing on solids with ladle or rubber spatula to extract liquid; discard solids. (Make sure to use rubber spatula to scrape any apple solids on underside of strainer into sauce.)
6 Stir minced thyme into sauce; season with vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Transfer sauce to bowl. Serve chops and apple rings, passing sauce separately.