During Season 3 of Bravo's hit reality series Top Chef , Howie, a chef competing for top honors, was challenged to make a healthy version
Servings: Serves 4
Fennel-Crusted Pork Chops:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large shallots , chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic , chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 sprigs rosemary , chopped
  • 4 sprigs thyme , chopped (leaves only)
  • 5 Tbsp. fennel seeds , toasted and roughly ground
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless pork loin chops , each about 1/2 inch thick
Apple Cider Sauce:
  • 1 quart apple cider
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 shallots , chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic , chopped
  • 1 piece (2 inches) ginger , thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
Three-Apple Fennel Salad:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar , to taste
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned Granny Smith apple , about 1/2 apple
  • 1/2 cup julienned Braeburn apple , about 1/2 apple
  • 1 1/2 cups julienned fennel (from one small bulb), fronds reserved for garnish
To make Fennel-Crusted Pork Chops marinade: Combine the oil, shallots, garlic, mustard, rosemary, thyme, 1 tablespoon of the fennel seeds, and salt and pepper to taste in a blender and puree.

Place the pork chops in a heavy-duty, zip-top bag, pour in the marinade, seal the bag, and distribute the marinade to coat. Refrigerate overnight to marinate, moving the pork chops around a few times to keep them thoroughly coated.

To make Apple Cider Sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has a rich, glossy consistency and is reduced to about 1 cup, 45 to 60 minutes. Watch carefully toward the end, as the sauce will bubble and start to get syrupy—remove from the heat just before it becomes thick and syrupy.

Strain and discard the solids. Set aside and reheat just before serving.

To make Fennel-Crusted Pork Chops: Preheat the grill to medium-high.
Combine the remaining 4 tablespoons ground fennel with one teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Remove the pork chops from the marinade and wipe off any excess. Press the pork chops into the fennel seeds to coat all sides.

Oil the grill rack, then grill the pork chops, covered, turning once, until just cooked through, about 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 150° to 160°. Let the pork rest for a few minutes, then cut into thin slices. (Alternatively, the chops can be cooked in a lightly oiled large ridged grill pan over medium-high heat.)

To make Three-Apple Fennel Salad: While you're cooking the apple cider sauce, in a blender, combine the oil, vinegar, two tablespoons water, the raisins, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste and blend to combine and chop the raisins.

Just before serving, combine the apples and fennel in a large bowl and add the vinaigrette. Toss to coat, taste, and add more vinegar, salt, or pepper.

To serve: Spoon the sauce onto serving plates, top with the pork slices and fennel salad. Garnish with the reserved fennel fronds and serve immediately.

Top Chef: The Cookbook © 2008 by Bravo Media, LLC. Used with permission of Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit ChronicleBooks.com.

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