Friday, November 21, 2014

First Go

When my Hawaii brother was visiting a month or so ago, we went to the Ferry building in San Francisco where we purchased what had to be the best pork chop of my entire life. It was thick and juicy, brined and beautiful. I wanted more of that.

So, last week, I had the idea to brine my first-ever pork chops. I had found some nice, 1" thick ones with large tenderloins and they just seemed to cry out for special treatment. So, I went looking on the interwebs and adapted some recipes that sounded pretty good. I did make a few alterations, of course - that just seems to be my nature.

I mixed it up, dumped it and the pork chops into a zippered plastic bag, and popped them into the fridge to wallow in the brine from 9am to 6pm, turning it once or twice during that time to make sure it all got a chance to shine.

Jacques P├ępin's method for cooking pork chops always works for me, so I browned one side thoroughly, then flipped the chops and stuck the browning pan into a preheated 350F oven for about 5 minutes to finish cooking through.

Imagine our surprise when the first bites tasted like ham rather than pork!  The sugar in the brine was enough to fool the tongue into thinking we were eating ham and, let me tell you, that was a big disappointment to both of us. We like ham well enough but not when we had our taste buds all set for pork.

As we continued to eat, the hamminess diminished as we cut further into the chop - only the edges were truly hammish. Nonetheless, next time, I will omit the sugar and tweak the recipe toward the other ingredients. If you really love ham, this could be a great recipe for someone who doesn't want to buy a whole ham, or even a ham slice, but if you're a pork lover, beware!

Hammish Brined Pork Chops

2 nice bone-in pork chops, about 1/2 pound
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
10 juniper berries
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and halved or quartered
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 cup water

Bring the water to a boil, then add sugar, salt, garlic, lemon pepper, thyme, and juniper berries. Cook, stirring, until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Cool with 2 cups of ice cubes.

Pour brine into a water tight baggie or a bowl. Add pork chops and seal or cover. Refrigerate and marinate for 6-9 hours. Brown chops well in a wide pan slicked with a little butter, then flip and place the pan into a preheated 350F oven for about 5-8 minutes, depending upon thickness of the chops. You want the meat to be juicy and ever-so-slightly pink when served.

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