Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 29, 2012

Chef offers new takes on old favorite: pork chops

Lee Ward
The Independent

ASHLAND — Now that Memorial Day has passed and we have entered the time we officially consider grilling season, the National Pork Board has released some findings that are of interest to all carnivores.

The “However You Chop It” survey found only one in five Americans realizes the potential of pork.

These survey findings resulted in the pork board getting more and more interesting recipes using pork out where readers and cooks could access them.

In fact, the board enlisted the help of Chef Madison Cowan, grand champion of the cooking competition “Chopped” and recent winner of “Iron Chef America,” to get the word out.

“When it comes to versatility, it’s hard to beat pork chops,” Cowan, who also stars in the new television show, “No Kitchen Required,” said. “I’m a firm believer that chops are a great cut to inspire a bit more creativity in the kitchen. It’s ideal to keep a couple go-to chop recipes in your back pocket, but why not spread your culinary wings and try a new flavor combination or technique? I find that experimenting in the kitchen can be a revelation, often leading to new family favorites.”

Cowan says the best way to start getting creative with pork chops is to change up the preparation method. For example, try stuffing a whole chop with savory fillings or slicing and cubing it to use as an ingredient in a less traditional recipe.

There also are different kinds of chops:

‰Bone-in rib chops: When sliced thick, a large eye of loin meat make these the perfect chop for stuffing.

‰Top loin chops: Also called Center Cut Chops or America’s Cut (when sliced to 1 1/4” thickness), these boneless chops are meaty and lean.

‰Blade chops: One of the well-marbled of pork chop cuts, these are often butterflied and called “Pork Loin Country-Style Ribs.”

New varieties, techniques and flavors are inspired ways to jazz up your meal routine, but what’s Cowan’s number one tip for dishing up irresistible pork? “Don’t overcook it!” he said; 65 percent of pork-loving Americans are still learning that the key to juicy, tender and flavorful chops is to cook them to the USDA-recommended temperature of 145 degrees F, followed by a three-minute rest. This new recommendation delivers juicy and tender pork that’s more delicious than ever.

Here are a few recipes straight from Cowan’s kitchen. The first one is a Spanish recipe; if you can’t find Manchego cheese, sharp cheddar is a good substitute.

GRILLED PORK CHOPS WITH CHORIZO, DATES AND MANCHEGO STUFFING

6 double-thick bone-in rib chops, about 12 ounces each

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup sea salt

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

gallon iced water

Stuffing

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound smoked Spanish chorizo, diced

2 medium celery, finely chopped

1/3 cup pitted and finely chopped dates

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

2 teaspoons minced fresh sage

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Manchego or sharp Cheddar cheese

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To brine pork chops:  Bring vinegar, brown sugar, salt, mustard, and peppercorns to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve salt.  Do not inhale fumes.  Transfer to large, deep food-safe container.  Let cool until tepid.  Stir in iced water.  Submerge chops in brine.  Refrigerate for 3 hours, no longer.

To make stuffing: Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add celery, dates, and shallot, and cook, stirring often, until celery is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, sage, and paprika. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.  Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Remove chops from brine, rinse under cold water, and blot dry with paper towels. Cut a horizontal pocket in each chop to the bone using a sharp knife. Spoon equal amounts of stuffing into each chop, and close each opening shut with wooden toothpicks. Do not overstuff the chops; you may not use all of the filling.

Prepare a medium fire in an outdoor grill. (For a gas grill, preheat to about 400ºF. For a charcoal grill, let the coals burn until covered with white ash and you can hold your hand about an inch above the cooking grate for 3 seconds.) Brush cooking grates clean. Grill pork, with the lid closed as much as possible, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the center of a chop reads 145ºF, about 15 minutes. Remove from the grill and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove toothpicks and serve.

Makes 6 servings



GRILLED PORK CHOPS WITH BASIL GARLIC RUB

4 bone-in pork rib chops, 3/4-inch thick

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 packed cup fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



With machine running, drop garlic through feed tube of food processor to mince. Stop, add fresh basil, and process until chopped. Add lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper and process to make thin wet rub. Spread both sides of pork chops with basil mixture. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in grill. Brush the grate clean and oil the grate. Grill chops, over direct heat, turning once, to medium rare doneness, 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a 3-minute rest time.

TIP: Top the chop with shavings of Parmesan cheese (shave from a wedge of cheese with a vegetable peeler) and toasted pine nuts, if desired. Serve with slices of ripe tomatoes and mozzarella on a bed of arugula drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or with Pantry Basil-Garlic Rub.

Makes 4 servings



PANTRY BASIL-GARLIC RUB

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



Mix together oil, dried basil, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder and pepper in a small bowl. Spread both sides of pork with basil mixture. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.



ITALIAN PORK AND VEGETABLE SAUTE

1 pound boneless pork sirloin chops, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 large red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice

10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

Coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio, or non-alcoholic varietal grape juice, such as Chardonnay



Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in scallions and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.

Season pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet and heat. Add pork and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and meat is slightly pink when pierced to the center with tip of sharp knife, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir with wooden spoon to coat pork.

Add wine and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits in pan with wooden spoon.  Return vegetables to pan and cook until sauce is nicely thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot. 

TIP: Serve sauté spooned over cooked orzo or corkscrew pasta tossed with green peas and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

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While I don’t claim to be an expert cook, I do like to cook and love to eat. Readers are encouraged to send questions about food and cooking; I’ll try to find the answers. Also, if you’re looking for a specific recipe, send your request, or if you can offer a recipe to someone looking for something specific, please send e-mail to lward@dailyindependent.com.