Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Four Different Pork Chop Styles

I'll admit it. Pork chops aren't my favorite cut of pork. Don't get me wrong, I like to eat them, but they just don't excite me very much. I've had poorly cooked chops in the past resulting in tough, flavorless chops. But that is the cooking challenge, to hit that right moment of internal temperature where the chop is mouth-watering.

Pork chops can be versatile as there are several ways to prepare them. I chose four ways that each bring a different element to the dish; stuffing, brining, marinating, and flattening.

Flattening - Pork Paillard

Paillard is a French technique where a piece of meat is pounded thin to tenderize before cooking. Since the meat is thin, it cooks very quickly while retaining its juiciness and tender texture.

Cut the pork chop from the fat side to about a half inch on the other side. It should open up like a butterfly. Place the pork chop between plastic wrap and flatten it to about a quarter inch. I was not sanitary in my pounding of the pork chop but I seem to feel no effects of contamination.

You can use a meat tenderizer or a wooden mallet to pound away at the meat. I have neither so I used a small yet heavy cast iron skillet. Pound the paillard to even thickness.

Thinly pounded paillards should be grilled over high heat. Grill the first side of the paillard until it achieves its grill marks, about 3 minutes. The second side will only need to be grilled about 1 minute. Be careful to not overcook the paillard as it will dry out.

Served with a side of grilled carrots, the Pork Paillard is a quick and easy meal. It takes about 4-5 minutes to grill and you're on your way.

Brining - Garlic-Sage Brined Pork Chop

A brine is a salty liquid and it works its magic by penetrating the meat, it also leaves the meat with a juicier finish. The brine gives the meat more moisture and flavor from the start. Sugar is also added to the brine to balance out the effects of salt. Brown sugar especially goes well with pork. To help round out the flavor, herbs and spices can also included in the brine.

Another recipe from Charcuterie, smashed garlic, sage leaves, cracked juniper berries, brown sugar, salt, black pepper make up the brine. It is important to heat the brine first so the flavors marry with the liquid. Allow it to cool and place in the refridgerator. Let the pork chop sit in the brine for 2 hours, then wash and pat dry and let sit in refridgerator uncovered for an hour. Pay attention to how much time you allow the chop to stay in the brine. Too much time in the brine can result in overly salty meat.

For grilling, I set up my charcoals in a two-zone system. All the coals are tightly packed on one side of the grill for direct heat. Sear the chops on both sides and then place chops on the other side over indirect heat. The internal temperature you want to reach is between 130-140 degrees. It should take about 10 minutes.

Served with starchy, oven-roasted garlic/onion potatoes, the brined pork chop was definitely tasty. The salty brine penetrated the meat while the sage and juniper berries infused its earthy flavor into it. As directed, the chop retained a lot of its juiciness. I highly recommend brining your pork chops, it will give it a huge boost.

Stuffed and Marinated Pork Chop

Similar to brining, marinating meats provides flavor and tenderizes the meat. This simple marinade consists of soy sauce, lemon juice, chili sauce, brown sugar, and minced garlic. Because of the acid in the lemon juice, I only marinated the pork chop for 3-4 hours.

I grilled the pork chop over medium direct heat for about 10 minutes. You must be careful to not overcook the pork chop. It will get dried out and tough to chew. It is also important to know and understand your grill. If it is too hot, the outside of the chop will cook a lot faster than the middle of the chop resulting in a pink center and a black, charred outside. Not good. I was not perfect in my cooking, my marinated chop was under-cooked. It happens to all of us at some point.

Stuffing pork chops adds a some excitement.  My stuffing consisted of chorizo, chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, and cilantro.  

Cut a pocket into the fat side of the chop deep enough to allow enough filling. Make sure to not cut all the way through. I pierced the chop with tooth picks to seal in the filling somewhat. Dust with salt and pepper and you are ready to grill.

The stuffed pork chop was grilled alongside the marinated chop in medium direct heat for about 10 minutes.

Both chops were pretty tasty, well, the under-cooked marinated chop was tasty after I fixed it. The chorizo-chipotle-cilantro filling added spicy notes while the soy sauce and brown sugar in the marinade gave the chop a savory sweet play to it.

After trying chops four different ways, I would say the clear winner was the brined chop and the loser was the paillard. Though it is a quickly cooked and ready to eat and serve, the paillard chop reminded me of the unexciting chops I've had in the past. Nothing jumps out at you. It is basically just a thin chop.

The brined chop was truly tasty and reinvigorated my taste buds for more chops like that one in the Pork Drunk future. Sure, it takes a long time to prepare but it is all worth the effort.

1 comment:

  1. All of those chops look great! I find pork chops frustrating, since a good one is a revelation, a bad one is terrible, and it seem like luck of the draw which you are going to get. As you say, they can be hard to cook properly. Even more of an issue for me has been getting a good source product consistently.