Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Orange Rosemary Brined Pork Chops with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Ah the magical animal, (according to Homer) the good old pig. Indeed, so many options with a relatively small animal. Some parts are tasty when smoked, sliced thin, and fried on a griddle for breakfast or on a BLT. Who doesn't like a little butt on Jesus' birthday? Other parts are a great canvas for further flavoring, such as the humble chop. Bone-in chop, of course, you gotta go with the bone...it gives you more flavor and keeps things nice and juicy. You know a brine will also ensure your meat remains tasty and does not dry out while cooking. Pork, chicken, shrimps, turkey- all benefit from a little osmosis.

The brine here is a classic combination- orange juice/fresh herbs/smashed garlic. A healthy mix of rain and sun so far in the early summer has been kind to the garden, right now the little deck is supporting a shit ton of mint and the rosemary is already a few feet high, as you can see below. Mojitos, anyone? Saw the first tomato on the vine the other day, that's a lovely sight, I think I felt some movement. Only 2 more months of care and anticipation, those will be the highlight of summer. BLT's, anyone? Rounding that out with some citrus and then grounding the savoriness with some garlic and peppercorns, damn that's gonna be a tasty brine. Even though, you know, you shouldn't taste it. Want to know more about this technique? Cook's Illustrated, one of the best sources of info in print and online, has this explanation.

The first time I set out to brine something, I believe it was pork chops, I didn't cool the brine first, I just threw them in once the sugar and salt were dissolved, and the heat started to cook them and they turned a very unappealing gray color, not to mention the inhibition of the brine itself. Oops. My favorite way to cool down a brine is to stash it outside on the deck in a snowbank, but those are relatively scarce in June. So in the warmer months I let it cool down for 10 minutes or so, then stash it in the freezer if I need to speed up the process, vs. letting it cool down to room temp on its own, which could take hours. Your freezer and its contents will be fine, no worries there for this amount of heat, the new models these days are super efficient.

I'm sure you've 'disciplined' an herb before, you just didn't realize it. I came across this new term on some food blog, the meaning of which is to roughly tear up said herb by hand, so in-between leaving it whole and chopping it with a knife. It works great for cilantro and parsley, when you want that rustic look, or just don't want to take the time to clean the board/knife. Even though we've been doing this forever, I do like the term. You are just crushing it enough to bring out essential oils and the aromatics.

Orange Rosemary Brined Pork Chops with Grilled Pineapple Salsa
2 servings

1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C kosher salt
1 C orange juice
1 qt water
1 ts whole black peppercorns
2 large sprigs rosemary
1 sprig mint, parsley (optional)
2 large bone-in loin pork chops, about 3/4" thick
1 cup grilled pineapple, diced
1/2 small jalapeno, seeded, finely diced
1 TB shallot, diced
1 TB any color bell pepper, diced
1 ts cilantro, disciplined
1 ts EVOO
pinch S&P

For the brine- combine the sugar, salt, OJ and water in a medium saucepan, heat and stir occasionally until sugar and salt are dissolved. Off the heat, add the herbs and peppercorns. Bring to room temperature, then add the chops. If the chops aren't fully covered you can add bit more water, or ice. Chill for at least 4 hrs, up to 8 hrs, turning once halfway through the process.

For the salsa- cut up the pineapple. After you have the four large pieces of fruit, I do like to cut again into large spears. This will increase the surface area on the grill and that leads to more of the always sought after and lovely grill marks. Add the jalapeno, shallot and pepper, cilantro, oil, and just a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well and let chill while you grill.

For the chops- remove the chops from the brine, rinse, then pat dry with paper towel. Season lightly with black pepper. Let sit at room temp for 30 minutes before you grill. Once ready, fire up that box for high direct in one area and medium indirect in another. Sear the protein on high for 2 minutes per side, if you are all about the cross hatch grill mark pattern you turn 45 degrees halfway through on each side. After you get a good sear on each side, move to the indirect part of the grill. Depending on the heat and thickness of your chops, they'll be ready in about another 6-8 minutes, again turning halfway through. 145F in the thickest part-that's your buzzer. Take em off and let rest for at least 8 minutes. Top with the salsa, and enjoy a little fruit with your meat.

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