Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Grilled Bone-In Pork Chops, Lemon and Thyme Brine

The mint has already taken off, I'd call it wildly if it wasn't domesticated.  The oregano and thyme have enjoyed the record-breaking warmth in Chicago this early spring, and have so far tolerated a couple of freezing nights.  Rosemary would easily power through a couple cold snaps, but we haven't planted any yet- there's rules for that, you know.  Some herbage like basil wouldn't stand a chance living in thirty degree temps.  Even though it was in the high 80's for a couple days in March, a good rule of thumb any year is not to plant until May, some would say even Mother's Day.  But with all the trees, shrubs and flowers throwing out tremendous color so early in 2012, I couldn't resist starting a few herbs tolerant of the few remaining chilly nights.  The thyme lent a yummy flavor profile to these grilled pork chops, paired with familiar friends in garlic and lemon. 

Pork isn't the 'other' white meat, it's the white meat.  Since it is Passover, I won't get into my love affair with all things pork, so let's just agree the pork council should amend their slogan.  Chicken is boring.  Pork kicks chicken's ass any day.  Every day.  No days on my calendar I can't enjoy swine or bread.  Life should not be without pork chop sammiches, though everybody does get to make their own choice in the matter. 

The brine is the second-most important element to this dish, after the quality of your bone-in pork loin chops, which you have hopefully procured from what you deem to be the best choice available.  Jewel or Dominick's might have something similar to decent, but a butcher or even Whole Paycheck would be best. 

This recipe calls for kosher salt.  More specifically, I use Morton's kosher salt, which I greatly prefer over Crystal or other brands.  Never substitute table salt when a recipe states kosher, as the particle size is different and therefore you may end up over-salting your dish.  

In determining when grilled meat items intended for human consumption have nearly reached their recommended internal temperatures, something called an internal thermometer is key.  Very easy to use, they are as important to a cook as fork and knife.  Pick up one for $20 at BBB or get the Cadillac of the bunch online.  Even if you kill this pork chop, (I mean overcooking, not actually eating a live pig) the brine will keep it nice and juicy, thoughts of a dry piece of meat are ridiculous! It's not gonna happen!  Five minutes of prep work for a delicious grilled experience with the most valuable animal ever. 

Grilled Bone-In Pork Loin Chops, Lemon and Thyme Brine
2 generous servings

2 10-12 oz. bone-in pork loin chops, 1.25-1.5" thick
1 C very warm water
3 TB dark or light brown sugar
3 TB kosher salt
3 TB fresh lemon juice plus lemon, sliced, 2 slices reserved
splash OJ or a couple orange slices
4-6 fresh thyme sprigs, roughed up a bit to release flavor
6-8 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 TB black or green peppercorns, smashed
3 C very cold ice water/ice cubes

In a small bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar into the warm water, let cool (if there's room I'll put in in the freeze for 10 minutes, stirring after 5) and set aside.  Add your chops to a clean brining container.  With the brine at room temp or cooler, add to the chops along with the cold water, herbage, fruit(s) and lemon juice, garlic and peppercorns.  The longer you can brine, (up to a point, of course) is better, anywhere from two to six hours in the fridge would be good.  Don't forget to flip halfway through, if you can. 

Remove from brine one hour before you would like to dine on them.  Rinse and dry with a paper towel and put on a plate, discard brine solution.  Set your grill of choice up for medium direct heat, 400 hundred F or so thirty minutes to meal time, this will give your proteins time to relax and warm up before being denatured over flame.  During the preheat, lightly season your chops on all sides with S&P, then rub some oil all over, EVOO or canola/veggie.

Depending on the size of your chops, total cooking time will be about 15 minutes.  For a chop just under one and a half inches, mine went for 8 minutes on the first side and 6 on the flip.  Cook until internal temp registers at least 140F, you'll gain the extra five degrees to hit the minimum of 145F as it rests.  Serve with asparagus risotto or a once-baked, once-broiled potato and a simple green salad.  A couple sprigs reserved for garnish would look nice too. 

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