Total time: 2 hours, plus overnight brining
Servings: 8 to 10
Note: This is best made using apple-wood-smoked bacon. The chops can be prepared a few hours in advance (after brining) up to Step 9.
3 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 cup kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 cup maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1 cup Bourbon whiskey
3 (4-inch) sprigs rosemary, lightly crushed
8 center-cut pork chops, each 1 1/4 - to 1 1/2 -inch thick, preferably bone-in
1 large head garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces bacon (about 5 slices), cut into 1/4 -inch pieces
10 ounces washed and trimmed spinach from 1 large bunch, or 1 (10-ounce) bag
12 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1. Place the mustard seeds in a medium stock pot over medium-low heat. Toast the mustard seeds for a couple minutes, just until they start to pop. Remove from the heat.
2. Add 4 quarts water to the pot, and stir in the salt, maple syrup and bourbon. Add the crushed rosemary sprigs and place the pot over high heat. Once the brine comes to a boil, remove from the heat and allow it to steep until it cools to room temperature.
3. Place the pork chops into two gallon-size sealable bags (four pork chops in each bag). Divide the brine between the two bags, and then squeeze the excess air out of the bags before sealing them tightly. Place the bags in the refrigerator overnight.
4. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut off the end of the garlic head, exposing the tops of the cloves. Drizzle the cut top with the olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Wrap the head in foil and place in the oven for 1 hour to roast. After an hour, remove the garlic and allow to cool before removing the foil. Squeeze the roasted cloves from the bulb and set aside.
5. While the garlic is roasting, place the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon starts to crisp. Remove from the heat to a paper-towel-lined plate and allow to cool. Pour out the fat, leaving 1 tablespoon in the pan.
6. Reheat the bacon fat in the pan over medium heat. Stir in the spinach in bunches, adding another bunch as the spinach wilts, until all is added. When just wilted, remove the spinach to a cutting board lined with paper towels. Allow the spinach to cool slightly and pat off the excess moisture with the paper towels, then roughly chop it. Set aside.
7. Place the goat cheese in a medium bowl. Add the spinach, roasted garlic cloves, bacon, thyme and the half teaspoon of chopped rosemary. Season with a few grinds of black pepper. Refrigerate the stuffing until needed.
8. Remove the pork chops from the brine. Using a boning knife, slice a pocket (no more than 2 inches wide) into the side of a pork chop. You will cut a pocket through most of the chop, but leave a half-inch border all around to prevent the pocket from ripping when stuffed. Repeat with the remaining chops. Divide the stuffing into eight portions. Stuff each of the eight chops, using a little of the stuffing at a time and distributing it evenly into the pocket with your fingers. Close the pockets with a toothpick or two.Wipe any excess stuffing from the outside of the chops.
9. Heat a grill over medium heat. Oil the grill rack and place the chops on the grill, leaving a few inches between each for even cooking. You may have to do this in batches. Cover the grill and cook the chops, 6 to 7 minutes on each side, until a thermometer inserted reads 140 degrees for medium, about 8 minutes per side for well. Remove the toothpicks before serving, and serve immediately.
Each serving: 331 calories; 33 grams protein; 5 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 19 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 81 mg. cholesterol; 851 mg. sodium.