There are rubs and there are brines. A brine is a slower process where the rub, sugar and salt are diluted to penetrate the protein and break it down so that the meat is juicy, flavorful and tender after cooked. I love brined pork and chicken, but if I am cooking late and didn't think about it the day before, I will have to do a nice rub on the meat, which is just more concentrated and expedited, and that's what I have here. Pork chops go with so many accompaniments but I do love the acidity of apples or an applesauce with pork chops and the bite of mustard greens. You can use mizuna, or arugula if you cannot find mustard greens. Also, you can put a schmear of hot mustard mixed with a little honey or molasses on the plate instead for the kick. I like onion rings, in general. My other favorite accompaniment to pork chops is kimchee tossed with some fresh fruit such as peaches or plums.
To cook the pork chops: Grind all the spices together with the sugar and rub all over the pork chops. Set aside for 30 minutes to an hour at room temperature.
Preheat the grill on high or heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat on the stovetop and preheat the oven to 375 degrees (Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan if cooking in cast iron).
Cook the pork on one side for 4 to 5 minutes on the grill or in cast iron. Flip over and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes on the grill; if cooking in cast iron, flip the chop and transfer to the oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
To cook the sauteed apples: In a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, 1 tablespoon water and a drop of lemon juice. Cook until sugar caramelizes to golden brown. Turn off the heat and add the apple slices and star anise. Return the pan to medium-high heat, stir in the butter and remaining lemon juice. Saute, stirring, for 2 minutes, adding the brandy in the last minute of cooking with a pinch of salt. Simmer briefly to burn off the alcohol and thicken the caramel. Set aside.
To cook the onion rings: Bring the canola oil to 360 degrees F in a large pot. Combine the flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a shallow dish or bowl. Dip the onion rings in the flour mixture to dredge, shaking off any excess. Dip in the buttermilk to coat, and then back into the flour mixture. Shake off any excess flour. Working in batches, fry the rings until light golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
Serve the pork chops with the sauteed apples, onion rings and mustard greens.
Recipe courtesy of Elizabeth Falkner