Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fear and pork chops

I went into this month's Charcutepalooza challenge, the brining challenge, with an entirely different notion of what I would do. The technique of brining meat - that is, letting it sit for a time in a salty, flavored liquid - can be applied to so many materials, everything from whole chickens to sides of beef. I originally planned on making corned beef, which sounded not only fun and interesting but delicious.

Then, out of the blue, my good friend Ayn called to tell me she was making pickled beef tongue for the challenge, but bought two, and ooh, weren't they a bit big, and would I want one?

How can one say no?

We met for cocktails, and I was handed a non-descript bi-rite bag. I had serious deja-vu of a similar hand-off I'd had with Ben of YFBC only a few months before, of a roasted pig head in a Trader Joe's bag. Only that time, I was doing the handing off, not the taking, and didn't actually have to think about what I'd do with the thing afterwards.

I open the bag. The tongue looked back at me.

And...well. I chickened out. It's in my freezer. I don't know what to do with it. Maybe I'll make lengua tacos.

It's not the idea of working with a three pound cow tongue that freaks me out. Ayn made corned beef tongue, and it doesn't look like too scary a process.

Its the idea of making a pickled cow tongue, and then getting my husband to eat it.

This is the other side of exploratory food, and maybe not everyone cares about it. Heck, I usually don't care about it, and most times the things I make are awesome and delicious enough that it doesn't matter. But somehow, something told me that this would pass a line.

So. I made pork chops.

Pork chops are a challenge for me, even though that's probably not the case for most 'normal' people. I didn't grow up eating pork, aside from guiltily made side of microwave bacon every so often. We didn't keep kosher, really, we just...didn't eat it.
My first pork chop, in fact, was eaten at my mother in law's perhaps two years ago. wasn't great. (Don't tell my husband, okay?)

So, not ONLY have I personally never made a pork chop, nor have much experience eating them, but they are a favorite 'mom's cooking' dish of my husbands. No pressure, right?

Not only did these turn out great - juicy and flavorful with a good sear - but they were dead easy. I even had time to make sides, which doesn't happen a whole lot in our house.

I'd never made these before, but you bet I'll make em again.

Apple-brined pork chops

I bought two bone-in pork chops, just over an inch thick each. If you are cooking for more, double the amount of brine. Brine is a basic recipe (based on Dean and Deluca's ) with my flavorings added.

The brine:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/8 cup kosher salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 bay leaves, crushed
  • 2 cloves
  • large pinch of cardamom seeds
  • 2 dried birdseye chillis
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 3 sage leaves, crushed
  • 1 apple, chopped (don't bother coring)
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, salt, and sugar to a boil.
  2. Add the aromatics: bay, cloves, cardamom, pepper, chilli, garlic and sage. Bring to a simmer and let it go on for about 10 minutes.
  3. Cool completely.
  1. Prepare the receptacle. Since I only did two porkchops, I was able to brine in a doubled up ziploc baggie, but if you plan on making more, you may need a tupperware or something.
  2. Add the pork chops and brine to the receptacle, along with the chopped apple.
  3. Brine for two hours, a bit longer if your pork chops are very thick.
  4. Remove the pork chops from the brine, and wash them very well.
  5. Pat them dry and chill in the fridge, covered by some plastic wrap if you wish, for anywhere from 15 minutes to a day. (I actually brined mine the night before and for the next evening)
To cook:
  1. Bring the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Get a oven safe pan (I use my handy le creuset skillet) and get it very hot over high heat. 
  3. add about a tablespoon of vegetable or grapeseed oil just to coat.
  4. Sear the pork chops on either side (about a minute on either side). Turn the blower on, things might get smoky.
  5. Put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is about 135 degrees.
  6. Remove from the oven, cover and let rest for about 15 minutes.
Serve with whatever you like - I ended up sauteeing mushrooms in the pan juices and a bit of butter, and made garlic spinach and roasted potatoes. 

I'm glad I tackled this particular challenge. Uh, now to do about the tongue in my freezer...


Ayn said...

Nice post! Glad you've overcome your fear of pork chops, at least (and I can't wait for lengua tacos!).

Thanks for linking to my photos. =)

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Your pork chops look perfect--I'm sure they were a lot better than your mother-in-law's! I make pork chops often, a few different ways. I have drawn the "line" when it comes to cooking tongue. My mother occasionally made it when I was a child. Only she and her mother (they were English) would eat it. I always tasted most things, but I don't think I even tasted the tongue. I drew that "line" early in life! So I'm afraid I cannot help you.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Your pork chops look lip smackingly delicious! And of course, now you KNOW we are all waiting to see what you do with the tongue!

Erica said...

Your pork chops look perfect!

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