I'm trying to do this thing where I challenge myself to cook at least one recipe a month that's printed in the NY Times Sunday Magazine. I hadn't done one in a while, due in part to laziness and in part to the only tempting thing from the past month being a crazy good, crazy fattening recipe for Tortoni. But last Sunday I opened the Magazine to find a recipe for brined pork chops that I had all but three ingredients for - those being the chops themselves, apple juice and agar. And this recipe has at least 2 dozen ingredients, so, you know, score!
This is another one of those recipes that sounds more labor intensive than it really is. Sure, it takes time, but most of that time the pork chops are sitting in a brine in your fridge. Which means, don't try and do this less than 8 hours before you want to eat it, but come up with something else to do with 7 of those hours.
Sure, the recipe says brine the pork 24 hours. But eff that, I brined for 8 hours and the pork chops were HEAVEN. In all honesty, better than the stuffed pork chops from a few months back. Cause, the thing with pork chops is, it's really easy to screw them up and overcook them. Brining the chops makes the cooking time a little more forgiveable. The chops are going to be moist even if you freak out about getting trichnosis and leave them on for two more minutes JUST TO BE SURE. I love a recipe that makes you look good and this one does.
I served the chops on Monday night with a red cabbage, apple and prune side that was inspired by Clotilde over at Chocolate & Zucchini. The cabbage was a great pairing with the pork, a classic match. And a convenient one, since I had (and still have) a ton of red cabbage left over from the Farmers Market last week. Score Part 2: Electric Score-a-loo.
The only component of the dish I wasn't totally in love with is the sauce that goes over the top, and that may have to do with my lack of agar use, the fact that it made WAY more sauce than necessary and that the apple juice I used was a bit sweeter than I wanted. Used sparingly, the sauce was fine, but too much would make a sweet mess on your chops. Be warned. But don't be scared away. These chops are too good to miss.
Grilled Pork Porterhouse with an Apple-Maple-Ginger Sauce
from Christine Muhlke for the NY Times Sunday Magazine "Field Report", March 1, 2009
For the brine:
1/4 c. maple syrup
5 tbsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. peeled, sliced ginger
3 tbsp. crushed garlic
1 sprig fresh sage
3/4 c. onion slices, cut into 1/4 inch rings
5 bay leaves
2 tsp. peppercorns
6 1 1/4 inch thick pork loin chops (also known as pork porterhouses), preferably Berkshire organic (*I used the TJ's brand, I'm no snob)
For the infused oil:
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. peppercorns
2 tbsp. minced shallot
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/2 c. vegetable oil
For the sauce:
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. minced shallot
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 c. apple juice
1/2 c. chicken stock
3 star anise
2 tbsp. minced ginger
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 tbsp. agar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Twenty four hours before cooking (*I did this 8 hours before and it still turned out lovely), stir all of the brine ingredients except the pork into 1 quart of water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Let cool to room temperature. Submerge the pork chops in the brine, cover and refrigerate.
2. The next morning (*or at the same time, if you're doing day-of), prepare the infused oil. Grind the coriander, bay leaf and peppercorns in a spice mill or a clean coffee grinder and combine with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Let sit at room temperature. (*Hehe, I just realized I totally never did the spice mill grinding bit, and the oil infused just fine).
3. Make the sauce: in a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and saute until carmelized, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the apple juice, chicken stock, star anise and ginger. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until reduced by one-quarter. Add the maple syrup, vanilla pod and seeds and agar and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Discard the star anise and vanilla pod. Puree the mix in a blender (*I used an immersion hand blender in the pot), then pass through a fine mesh sieve (*I did not pass through a fine mesh sieve because I am lazy like that). Season to taste with salt and pepper. **Now that I think about it, maybe adding a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar may have helped cut the sweetness while preserving the key flavors.
4. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill (*or a grill pan for indoors) to medium-high heat. Rinse the meat and pat dry with a paper towel. Brush the chops with the infused oil, then sprinkle lightly with salt. Grill to medium doneness, or until the internal temperature reads 135-140 degrees on a thermometer and the middle is light pink, about 6 minutes per side. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle with warm sauce and serve.
And about that cabbage side? Here's a really simple rundown.
Take 1/2 a red cabbage, cut it in half again, then slice it thinly. Mix it with 1-2 chopped apples (I used Fuji), 8 prunes and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Cook it in a little oil (1-2 tbsp. max), then after it's reduced a bit, add in about a cup of apple juice and 2-4 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar, to taste. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes and serve along side the pork chops.