Conversation between Nick and me at the organic market last weekend:
Do you want to do pork some time this week?
(picks up massive 2+ pound pork loin)
Check this out!
(looks at price tag)
Maybe we just get a couple pork chops.
*He may have said another expletive. There were two things he shouted at the store on Sunday. One was in reference to the pork, the other was in reference to the sign advertising organic Thanksgiving turkeys for $8.99/pound.
And so last night we had pork chops. On our way home from the store on Sunday when we were discussing the game plan for the pork (because that’s what couples talk about on their way home, right?) we agreed that these were going to be unadulterated pork chops. No fancy pan sauce, no breading. I think we were both on the same page about this because of an experience we had eating dinner with Em and Mike the other week.
Mike had purchased these scallops from a local market and, well, even before they were cooked we knew these were the best scallops we had ever seen. Even raw they smelled good. Almost good enough that I would have tasted one raw, except that I did that very thing the night before my 6th or 7th birthday and let’s just say it did not end well. Anyway, Mike made a delicious coconut-saffron sauce to go with the pan-seared scallops. But at the end of the meal we all tried the scallops sans sauce and agreed that, when you’re dealing with meat or fish of that quality, sauces just take away from the beauty of a simple, well-prepared dish.
Wow… sorry for the scallop tangent. This is about pork, not scallops. But you get the idea- these looked like exceptional pork chops, and I wasn’t about to interfere with that. I promise that if I see Mike make the scallops again, I will try to document it, or get him to write a guest blog. For now… pork chops.
There are two things that people do to ruin pork.
The first error is cooking it too long. Everything I have read indicates that there is no reason to worry about some pinkness in pork; as long as you reach an internal temperature of 145 or 150, you’re fine. If you cook it until it is completely white, you’ve gone too far. Invest in a good thermometer, like this one. We have one that Nick’s former boss gave to him, and it has made a world of difference in cooking just about every kind of meat. Well, technically, we have one we purchased to replace the one Nick’s former boss gave him. (I suggest you keep the silicone-coated cord out of the reach of cats who enjoy chewing on things.)
The second error is not brining it. Plan ahead and brine your pork about an hour before you want to start cooking it. This pretty much guarantees moist and flavorful meat, and I think it gives you a little bit of wiggle-room in terms of overcooking it.
I use the brining guide in the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I also used their recipe for sauteed pork chops. I think I’ve mentioned this book before. It’s an excellent, comprehensive cookbook for the basics.
Oh, the green things. I’m not usually a fan of greens like chard or kale. But when we were shopping the other night I felt like we did not have enough vegetables in our cart, so I decided to give Swiss Chard a try. It was tasty, but definitely garlic-y, so if you are not a huge garlic fan, you might want to cut back.
Brine the Pork
Even though I only had two chops, I used the amounts for four pork chops in the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook.
Fill a large bowl with 1 1/2 quarts cold water. Stir in 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons table salt (or 4 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt). Submerge two (or four) bone-in pork chops in the water. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour.
While the Pork is Soaking, Start the Sweet Potatoes
I think I found the biggest sweet potato in existence. It was plenty for Nick and me with leftovers. Roasting it was pretty basic.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut up sweet potato(es) into inch-thick chunks. Place in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast until tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Sauteed Pork Chops (from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)
Remove pork chops from brine solution and pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you are using a meat thermometer, insert it from the side into the center, away from the bone. (Make sure you insert it on the side since you’ll have to flip the pork chop over during cooking.)
In a 12-inch skillet, heat two tablespoons oil (they call for vegetable, I used olive oil) over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown the pork chops on one side for about 3 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium, and turn pork chops over. Cook until internal temperature reaches 135 degrees (about 5 to 10 minutes). Remove chops to plate, tent with foil and let them rest for a couple minutes until temperature reaches 145 to 150 degrees.
Sauteed Swiss Chard (from Bon Appetit via Epicurious)
Reduced to two servings.
Trim and remove stems from one large bunch Swiss chard. Cut leaves crosswise into 1/2-inch thick strips.
In a large heavy pot over medium-low heat, melt 3/4 tablespoon butter with 3/4 tablespoon olive oil. Add one finely chopped garlic clove (I pressed it rather than chopping it) and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add Swiss chard and stir to coat. Cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and serve.