Since there’s already been some cross-over between Chopped Canada and Top Chef Canada, with one of the chefs, Shelley Robinson, appearing on both, and Chopped Canada host Dean McDermott judging on Top Chef Canada, I think it’s only fair that I do some cross-over, too. This past week for Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home, I set out to recreate Terry Salmond’s maple-soy glazed chicken dish with cashew butter and cherry relish.

After all was said and done, Chef Terry pointed out (via Twitter) one step that I did not do: brining. It was a slap myself in the face sort of moment. When you’ve got the time, whether it’s chicken, beef or in this case, some bone-in pork chops, brining meat helps keep the protein extra juicy and a lot more flavourful.

This week for Chopped Canada Mystery Solved it’s all about not skipping that step. It’s time to brine!

Maple syrup: it’s practically in our blood or, at the very least, in our cupboards.  In this recipe, I use the mystery basket ingredient from last week’s episode of Chopped Canada in a few different ways: in the brine for the chops, then with the sauteed green, and to finish the pork after searing.
The end result is a plate of food that will make anyone around the dinner table happy. If beet greens aren’t your cup of tea, try using Swiss chard or kale instead. The brine portion of this recipe can be used with a variety of meats so I encourage you to try it out on whatever protein your heart desires.
Maple Brined Pork Chops with Maple Butter Greens and Poblano Peppers

Brining time: at least 4 hours
Total cook time: 45 minutes

Serves 4


Brine ingredients:
2 ¼ cups water
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
3 ice cubes

Pork chop ingredients:
3 cups brine
4 bone-in pork chops
salt and pepper, to season
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup

Maple buttered greens and poblano pepper ingredients:
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 poblano pepper, halved, seeds removed, thinly sliced
3 cups beet greens, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to season

Brine directions:
1.    Place all ingredients except ice cubes in a medium pot and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat, about 3 minutes.
2.    Transfer to a bowl, add ice cubes and let cool in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.

Pork chop directions:
1.    Place pork chops into a shallow dish or any sizeable container, cover with brine and let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
2.    Remove from brine, discard liquid and pat the pieces of pork dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.
3.    Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
4.    Heat a cast iron pan on high heat. Working in two batches, sear pork chops until each have a dark brown crust on either side, approximately 2 minutes per side.
5.    Reduce to low heat, place all 4 chops in the pan. Add the butter and syrup and let melt.
6.    Carefully tilt the pan towards yourself and use a small spoon to baste each piece of meat with the maple butter.
7.    Transfer pan to oven and let cook until the pork is at a medium doneness, about 10 minutes, basting once or twice during the cooking time.
8.    Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Maple buttered greens and poblano pepper directions:

1.    Heat canola oil on medium-high heat and cook the onion until softened, about 5 minutes.
2.    Reduce to medium heat, add butter and maple syrup and let cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
3.    Add remaining ingredients, stirring to incorporate and continue to cook until the greens and poblano are tender, approximately 4-5 minutes.
4.    Keep warm on stove until ready to serve.

To serve:
Serve on a bed of rice or grains (I used pearled wheat), topped with maple buttered greens and a pork chop.