Thursday, November 20, 2014

Zero-waste week day 3: Beer-brined pork chops and English muffin stuffin’

On day three, I realized: “Crap! I don’t have anything for Chloe to bring to school for snack!”

Then I remembered: We had popcorn kernels! So I popped a ¼ cup of kernels with a teaspoon of oil in a sauce pan (HINT: Put the salt right over the oil and kernels before you pop it. Makes the salt stick better!), and sent her off to school happy as a pig in…no that’s an inappropriate thing to say about your little girl. As happy as a kid in popcorn.

On the dinner menu that night: Forgotten, defrosted pork chops and a winging-it stuffing.

First I made a brine for the pork chops in the middle of the afternoon because I work from home. But it would be easy for someone to do it before work. A brine is like a marinade but not. Don’t ask me the difference. I don’t know. But I know they’re really forgiving, and just need salt. In fact, you could really make a brine out of just salt and water, if you needed to. But more flavors are better, so you could use apple juice, vinegar and water, or beer, like I did here.

I dug through the fridge and cabinets and came up with this brine:

A couple of brine ingredients

  • A can of Sam Adams Octoberfest beer
  • About 1 cup of apple cider vinegar (I bought the raw organic kind last month because I’d read it was a witch-doctor-ish cure for kidney stones. Guess what? It’s not.)
  • A couple of smashed garlic cloves
  • A tablespoon of honey that I’d warmed in the microwave so it could be stirred into the cold liquid
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme and sage
  • ¼ cup of salt

I poured the brine over the chops in a large zip-top bag and put it in the refrigerator to do its magic for a few hours.

Try to squeeze out as much air from the bag as you can
When dinnertime rolled around, I got busy making the stuffing out of rescued leftovers:

  • Slice in half and cube 3 almost-stale English muffins
  • Toss the cubes in a pan with a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil and a chopped onion
  • Stir until the muffin cubes get crispy edges and the onions are soft
  • Add chopped fresh sage and thyme and about ½ cup of dried cranberries
  • Cook another minute
  • Add ½ cup of chicken broth a little at a time, letting the bread drink up little bits of broth until it's all added
  • English muffin stuffin'


  • I put the stuffing into a cooking-oil sprayed loaf pan
  • Drained the chops of their brine and seared them over medium-high heat
  • Baked the chops and the stuffing in a 375 degree oven (the chops for 10 minutes, the stuffing for 20)

I also steamed some leftover carrots and made rice to round out the meal. Ms. Vegetarian Chloe had all the veggie and grain sides with an egg salad sandwich.

The result? Decent. I really like the stuffing, but thought the chops were overcooked. At least the brine gave them a nice flavor.

Also, as an aside, I woke up many, many times last night, and each time it was from the same dream: I was making the stuffing again and writing this blog post. I guess I was pretty excited about it.


  1. Color me impressed! That sounds delectable! You're doing awesome at this!