Leave It To Jacques
A couple of months ago, I had the thrill of meeting Jacques Pépin, one of my culinary heroes, and asking him to sign my copy of his new book, a weighty tome called, "Essential Pépin." Can I admit that I bought it more out of hero worship than out of a real sense that I would use it to cook from?
Well, how wrong can a person be?
The very first recipe I looked at sounded simple and delicious - Grilled Thyme Pork Chops. Since we love pork and thyme, it looked like a winner. And only five ingredients - pork chops, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil - what could be easier?
Turns out, the magic is not in the ingredients but in the technique. Not a big surprise, coming from the guy who literally wrote the book, "La Technique." All you do is sprinkle the chops with the salt, pepper, thyme, and coat them with the olive oil, then grill them for 4 minutes a side on a hot grill (we've tried both our outdoor charcoal grill and the indoor JennAir, and even browned them in a frying pan and they all work), then let them rest in a warm (about 150 degree) oven for 5-10 minutes, where they finish cooking by their own residual heat.
Now, I've cooked my fair share of pork chops and I'm here to tell you, they try to be dry and tough. The pig's revenge is to toughen and shrivel up. Even thick ones have this uncompromising attitude toward heat. I have tried adding water and steaming toward the end of the cooking, covering them with moist sauces, and even eating them so rare that I feared trichinosis, but as often as not, they went to their fallback position - leathery and dry.
No longer. Every time we have used Jacques' recipe, they have been pale pink, juicy and perfect. One time, My Beloved, who thinks he's not much of a cook, used the recipe while I was out for the evening, and even he had a smashing success.
Leave it to Jacques to figure out how to keep pork chops juicy while making the preparation simple and easy. You even get some light goozle in the bottom of the pan to drizzle over your absolutely perfect chops.