Brined and Grilled Pork Chops

IMG_8891Earlier this week, I was watching an episode of Chopped in which the judges were competing against each other. For the entree round, one of the basket ingredients was a rack of Berkshire pork. Berkshire Pork is a heritage breed of pig from England. Known for its fatty richness, unique texture, marbling, juiciness, tenderness and distinctive flavor, some call it the Kobe beef of pork. Chef Alex Guarnaschelli decided to make double cut pork chops. It dawned on me that I had never made pork chops. So I made that my cooking challenge for the week.

Whole Paycheck doesn’t sell Berkshire Pork, but they did have center cut pork chops on sale for $5.99/lb. Driving home I knew that I was going to brine the chops overnight to ensure that my chops were juicy, flavorful and tender. I prepared a basic brine: water, kosher salt, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, peppercorns and bay leaves. Once the brine was ready and chilled, I submerged the pork chops, put it in the fridge and let it swim overnight.

Before cooking dinner tonight, I was poking around online to see how other chefs cooked their chops and what sides they would serve with the chops. I came across a video of Gordon Ramsay making pork chops with apples and radicchio. I had never thought of combining apples and radicchio together, but it seemed interesting and easy enough to do so I decided to make that too. Watch the video, it’s only two minutes long. I love the style, the pacing and the simplicity of how he “teaches” you to cook the dish.

I made the sides: the apple and radicchio salad, haricot verts sautéed with garlic, simple sautéed mushrooms and sweet potato mash with a little bit of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. I put my favorite meat rub on both sides of the chops and then headed to the backyard to the grill.

Here’s some tips on grilling the chops. Pile your coals onto one side of the grill. Sear the chops for 2-3 minutes on both sides, then move them to the cooler side of the grill where there are no coals. Cover and let the chops continue cooking for approximately 10-12 minutes until their internal temperature hits 135°F, then allow the chops to rest for another 10 minutes. This method of grilling the chops helps keep the meat from getting too tough from the exposure to direct heat.

When I cut into the chops, they were juicy and tender. Not tough and full of that savory, porky flavor. The apple and radicchio salad was finished with a little bit of apple cider vinegar so it complemented the richness of the pork. The sweet potato mash was a nice sweet counterbalance to the saltiness of the pork chop.

Next time, I will try smoking the pork chops in my Traeger grill. I think I’ll be able to achieve a nice smoky flavor on the pork and the “lower and slower” cooking method might even help the chops be even more tender.

One final note: if you’re used to pork chops being white throughout, you’re used to eating overcooked pork. The USDA has revised the recommended internal temperature for pork to be 145, not 160. At 145, it will be a little pink, but still tender and juicy. If you took the time to brine your pork, even if you did overcook it to 160, the brining will help the pork retain some moisture.

Pork Chops with Apples and Radicchio, Sweet Potato Mash, Sautéed Green Beans and Mushrooms
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Brined and grilled pork chops, served over a sweet potato mash with a sweet and tangy apple and radicchio "salad", and sautéed mushrooms and green beans
Recipe type: Dinner, Pork
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
Ingredients
For the brine:
  • 4½ quarts water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
For the chops:
  • 4 pork chops (1½" inch thick)
  • Salt and pepper (or your favorite meat rub)
For the Apple and Radicchio salad:
  • 3 Braeburn or Fuji Apples, sliced thinly
  • 2 heads of Radicchio, chopped thinly
  • 2 teaspoons of thyme
  • 1 splash apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
For the Sweet Potato Mash:
  • 3-4 sweet potatoes (garnet yams)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
For the green beans:
  • 16 oz haricot verts
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
For the sautéed mushrooms:
  • 1 lb sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic powder
  • splash of worcestershire sauce
  • dry thyme
Instructions
To make the brine:
  1. The night before, combine 2 cups of water, the kosher salt, brown sugar, peppercorns and bay leaves in a small sauce pan.
  2. Bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  3. Pour into a large pot or plastic container and then add the remaining 4 quarts of cool water.
  4. Stir to mix well and set into the fridge to chill. Once the brine has chilled, add the pork chops, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Apples and Radicchio:
  1. Begin by slicing the apples. Cut the apples in half, and then into quarters. Remove any part of the core, stem and calyx (bottom). Slice thinly.
  2. Remove the core from the radicchio heads, and slice thinly. In a frying pan heat the olive oil and butter over moderate heat.
  3. Add the apples and fry for 5 minutes, turning them occasionally until they begin to soften. Add the radicchio to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes until they begin to wilt. Add the thyme and a splash of the apple cider vinegar and let it reduce over high heat for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Remove the apples and radicchio to a plate.
Sauteed Haricot Verts:
  1. In a frying pan, heat the butter and olive oil. Add the haricot verts to the pan until they are lightly toasted. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the garlic and oregano and cook for another minute.
  3. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the pan, cover and let the beans steam for 3-4 minutes over medium low heat. Check the beans for doneness, and if necessary, cook for a few more minutes until the beans are tender, but still crunchy.
  4. Remove to a plate.
Sauteed Mushrooms:
  1. In a frying pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan and toss to coat in the oil and butter. Season with salt and pepper, thyme and garlic powder.
  2. After the mushrooms have cooked for about 6-7 minutes and are beginning to get golden brown, add a splash of worcestershire sauce, stir and then remove the mushrooms to a plate.
To prepare the pork chops:
  1. Remove the chops from the brine and discard the brine. Rinse the chops, then pat dry with paper towels. Season the chops on both sides with kosher salt and pepper or apply your favorite meat rub.
  2. On your grill, sear the pork chops over high heat (2-3 minutes per side). Lower the heat to medium (350-375), or move the chops to the cooler side of the grill. Glaze with a BBQ sauce if desired. Cover and cook for 10-12 minutes or until the chops hit an internal temperature of 135.
  3. Remove the chops to a plate and let them rest for 10 minutes until they hit an internal temperature of 145.
  4. Serve the pork chops with the sweet potato mash, the apples and radicchio, green beans and mushrooms.