Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Favorite Fall Pork Chops

I love cooking in the fall. Cranberries top my list. Usually by the end of August I run out of my stash from the year before and I'm waiting for the fresh harvest to hit the shelves. I found this recipe last winter in the Niman Ranch Cookbook. Let me just say that this cookbook has a lot of useful information on how beef, pork, and lamb is raised at Niman Ranch (and its affiliates). The cookbook portion is a little under half of the book.

This recipe was actually written by Cleveland (Seven Hills) native Andrew Carmellini. I saw Carmellini on Iron Chef a while back and saw him narrowly lose to Batali by a point.
Having left A Voce in NYC this past summer, the chef has written a new cookbook called Urban Italian. Since I love the following dish so much, I think it's safe to say that I will probably be purchasing this new book.

Serves 4
Start to finish time: about 2 hours

Pork Chops
8 cups water
1 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
4 double-cut pork rib chops (I used 1-1/2" Kurobuta pork chops from Mr. Brisket)

2 cups freshly pressed apple cider
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cracked back pepper

Squash and Apples
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1# butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2" dice
2 tablespoons hulled pumpkin seeds
2 Gala apples, peeled, cored, and cut into a 1/2" dice
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice

For the pork chops, combine the water, salt and honey in a stock pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Put pork chops in a shallow baking dish and cover with the brine. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

For the glaze, combine the cider and vinegar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for around 20 minute, more importantly make sure it's reduced to a thick, syrupy consistency. Stir in the cracked pepper. Set a side. I prefer to split the glaze into two bowls so I can brush half on the chops while cooking, and drizzle the other half on the chops after plating.
Prepare and light a charcoal grill for direct cooking. Put 2 handfuls of apple-wood chips in a large bowl and cover with water. Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry. Bring to room temperature.

For the squash and apples, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the sqash begins to brown. Add the apples and cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the cranberries and cook for 2 and 3 minutes, until soft. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Keep warm.

When the grill is at its hottest (when the coals are red and glowing and too hot to hold your hand over for more than a couple of seconds), remove the wood chips from the water and carefully put on top of the coals. Wait for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the chips begin to smoke. Season the chops on both sides with salt and pepper and set on the cooking grate directly over the coals. Cook uncovered for about 4 minutes, or until browned. Brush the chops with the glaze, turn, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until browned. Brush with the glaze turn, and cook for about 2 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 140 degrees F. Transfer to a plate or cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Slice chops or serve whole with the squash and apples.

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