Tag : pork
Tag : pork
When I was a kid, I was not a fan of pork (unless it came in the form of bacon). No matter how well my dad prepared the pork, I just didn’t like it. I would have eaten all the broccoli in the world but fried pork chops just weren’t my thing.
And now, either because I’ve gotten older or learned to cook, they are sooooo my thing.
I mentioned to a chef at work that I wanted to learn how to fry pork chops, and he (vehemently) suggested that I brine them. I brined them the very first time I made pork chops, and I haven’t looked back since. They were that brilliant: cooked all the way through, but still juicy and tender; perfectly salted without being off-putting; flavorful, browned, and crispy, and drowning in a rich, brown gravy.
As you will soon find out (if you haven’t already), I’m a huge fan of cooking with booze. Any kind of pan sauce or gravy and there must be alcohol. For some reason, we always have sherry lying around, perhaps because we buy it and never drink it or cook with it (so why do we buy it in the first place?) The first time I did the pork chops, in order to save some money, I decided to pull out the sherry instead of buying a new bottle of wine or beer.
And I am glad I did. Compared to wine, sherry is super mellow, a little sweet, and still just as deliciously yeast-y. From now on, whenever I make a brown gravy with meat, I’ll be making it with sherry.
Thyme normally makes me think of chicken and cream sauce, but it pairs perfectly with the sherry in this gravy and adds a freshness to the salty pork chops.
Minus the tweaks in measurements and process, this is basically the first pork chop recipe I’ve ever made and I’ve been using the same flavor combinations for probably two years now. It’s just that good (but we all also know that I can’t not experiment, so there will be other pork chop recipes in the future.)
pan-fried boneless pork chops with thyme-sherry gravy
Note: The ratio for a pork brine is 16 parts water to 1 part salt, by volume, and you use enough water to cover all of your pork. You can brine the pork in a large pan, but I find it easier to use ziploc bags (you don’t need as much water, and you can keep them in the refrigerator more easily.) 1 quart of water will cover 1 lb of pork, and 1/16 of one quart is 1/4 cup. For one quart of water, use 1/4 cup of salt. You won’t need any more salt for the rest of the recipe, except possibly the gravy (but probably not.)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 c (2 oz) sea salt
2 Tbsp whole peppercorns
2 Tbsp (1 oz) granulated sugar
1 lb boneless pork chops
ground black pepper*
canola oil or olive oil for frying
*You won’t need any more salt for the cooking because the brine will have added plenty.
2 Tbsp (1 oz) butter or olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 c (2 oz) sherry
1 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (about 4 sprigs)
salt and pepper as needed
brine the pork
The goal with the brine is: dissolve the salt and sugar into the water, but don’t cook the pork prematurely with boiling water.
Place the pork chops into ziploc bags with the fresh thyme sprigs.
In a small saucepan, combine the salt, sugar, peppercorns, and 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Boil until both the salt and the sugar are dissolved. The brine will very likely change color and look a little amber.
Combine the brine with the remaining 2 cups of cold water to bring down the temperature and pour the entire mixture into the bag with the pork and thyme.
Close the bag and let the pork brine for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
If you’re brining the pork more than ~2 hours before cooking, then keep it all in the refrigerator and pull it out about 1~2 hours before you’re ready to fry the pork. Have the pork on the counter for at least an hour before frying to let it come to room temperature.
cook the pork
Remove the pork chops from the brine (the brine can go down the drain or in the trash now), and lay them out between two sheets of paper towels to dry for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet or saute pan (cast iron is best, but any other bare metal is good, too) on medium high and preheat the oven to 350 F*.
*If you’re using thin pork chops or if you pound them out, you won’t need the oven. For the small, thick boneless chops, you’ll need the oven for all of 5 minutes and no longer.
Once the pan is hot, add the vegetable oil and let it heat up for a few minutes, until it shimmers and runs as thin as water. You can test the oil by tilting the pan so that the oil pools around the rim, then sticking the handle of a wooden spoon into the pool of oil. If the oil is hot enough, the oil around the wooden handle will bubble. The oil will also shimmer and ripple on the surface, and if you swirl it around, it’ll be the consistency of water. It might even smoke a bit. You can heat it to the smoking point (unless it’s an unrefined oil, like extra virgin olive oil), or keep it just under the smoking point.
Place the pork chops into the pan: set them down gently, placing first the edge closest to you then the edge farthest from you to avoid splattering yourself with hot oil. You should hear the pork sizzle immediately. Make sure you don’t crowd the pan: it’s better to fry the pork in batches and spend more time on the searing than to try and fit all of the pork into the pan at once to speed up the process. It’s absolutely vital that the pork chops do not touch each other: leave at least 1-2 inches between each piece.
It doesn’t matter if you flip the pork chops multiple times or let them sear for 5 minutes on each side without any movement, as long as you don’t fuss with them too much between flipping. The constant and undisturbed contact between the protein/meat and the surface of the pan is how you get the best brown.
After placing the pork chops into the pan to sear the first side, sprinkle the crushed black pepper on the raw side. Once you flip the pork chops the first time, sprinkle the black pepper over the seared side. Black pepper burns easily, so the less you have floating around the pan, the better.
If you have thin pork chops, use a digital instant-read meat thermometer to test the temperature after the second side has been searing for 5 minutes. You can keep them frying and flipping until the internal temperature reaches 145 F**. If you have thick pork chops, you might need to finish them in the oven: transfer the seared meat to a baking sheet*, then place all of the meat in the oven. Take the temperature after 3-5 minutes. Once it reads 145 F, the meat is done.
**The safe temperature for whole pork is 145 F. For ground pork, where the likelihood of contamination inside the mixture is higher, the safe temperature is 165 F.
If all of your pork chops fit into your skillet at once without crowding each other, then save yourself a dish and just put the whole skillet in the oven.
As soon as the pork chops are out of your skillet, start on your gravy. The gravy only takes about 5 minutes.
make the gravy
Reheat the skillet on medium-low heat and add the butter or olive oil.
When the oil or butter is hot, add the minced garlic and saute for about 1 minute, until you can start to smell the garlic. Don’t let it brown too much or too quickly: the lower heat, the better, as long as the garlic is still able to cook.
Once the garlic is golden and you can smell it, whisk in the flour. The roux should be thick and pasty, but not too doughy. Cook the roux for about 1-2 minutes until it darkens a little bit.
Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the sherry. Whisk to fully combine the sherry and the roux and let the mixture bubble for about 1-2 minutes, until it thickens to a gravy-like consistency.
Whisk in about 1/3 of the stock until fully incorporated and bubbling. Taste the gravy at this point to see if it’s the right consistency (not pasty or floury, but not too thin), and the right flavor. Continue slowly incorporating the rest of the stock and testing for texture and flavor until it’s smooth and thick, but still gravy-like. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the gravy is too thin, let it bubble and thicken a bit. The finished gravy should coat the back of a metal or wooden spoon but not move when you run your finger through the gravy along the back of the spoon.
Once the gravy is finished, whisk in the fresh thyme and serve.
The pork chops and gravy keep for a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container or plastic bag. Store them separately.
My relationship with cooking pork is much like the oft-debated “When was our first date? Was it the night on Lover’s Overlook when we fondled each other with our clothes on? Or was it the first time you took me out for dinner at Johnny Rocket’s and paid for my meal?”
Excluding bacon, the first time I cooked pork was soon after I moved home from Japan. I was just starting my individual foray into the world of cooking techniques and, intrigued by the idea of braising, I decided to try braising a pork belly. I expected something similar to Chinese spare ribs or those delectable slices of chashu/charsiu you get in ramen.
I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t even find pork belly. I braised some part of a pig in coconut milk and spices, and I was so excited to try this homemade delicacy. I had braised! I had made pork! It would taste sooooo delicious!
It tasted like Death.
Let me clarify: that’s Death with a capital D. It didn’t necessarily taste bad, though at the time I figured I might never braise a pork whatever-it-was again (it’s been long enough, I should give it another chance.) It just tasted…dead. Not like blood, not like mold (cough cough, lamb, cough cough), not like rot. But like flesh, or like dirt. Eating those chunks of whatever part of the pig I bought, I had a striking sense that this thing had lived, had skin, muscle, and bones, and then had died.
For my vegan and vegetarian readers, I apologize for the graphic imagery. For the rest of you, I rarely have qualms about what I’m eating, because as much as I can, I try not to eat things that would give me qualms (or salmonella, but that’s an entirely different monster.)
So it wasn’t that I felt psychologically or spiritually that this thing was dead. It just tasted dead. Like Death.
If I had to find a better analogy, I would say it tasted a little like dirt.
At the time, I figured that pork usually tasted like dirt, forgetting that I had actually eaten plenty of un-dirt-y pork in my life already, and I decided to focus on chicken instead.
That brings me to the second date, the one where he actually took me out in public, to a restaurant, as a couple, and paid for my dinner: Easter, 2016.
Knowing that pork and lamb are the common Easter dishes, I decided I would go out on a newly-blossomed limb and try one or the other. I gathered together a packet of spring pork and lamb recipes, attempted a shepherd’s pie well before the holiday to prepare, decided with certainty that I would never cook lamb again (that tasted like an entirely different kind of Death), and then picked out a pork recipe for the big celebration: Brunello Cucinelli’s pork tenderloin with garlic and rosemary.
I had to make a few tweaks to the process because Signor Cucinelli is far more skilled than I was, but when we finally cut into the garlicky, floral pork roulade, it tasted…like Life?
That’s tacky. Sorry. It tasted like spring. No capital letters.
Everyone who tried it (my grandma and my parents) agreed that it needed to come around again, so throughout the last 2 years, I found times to try the recipe again, or to try other (simpler) pork recipes (one of which will feature on the blog later this year), or, feeling super creative, to adapt that recipe for the season.
And so that’s what we have: in December, feeling the cold of winter deep down in places where cold should not be, I went whole-hog (not literally) and changed up the recipe to suit the season: rosemary became fennel and star anise; the garlic became garlic, apples, walnuts, spices, and honey; the white wine for roasting became apple brandy; and the white wine pan sauce became brandied apples with butter, shallots, and spices.
Basically, it’s baklava but with pork instead of phyllo dough, and savory-sweet instead of only sweet.
And if you’re wondering why the blog is titled “Winter Stuffed Pork,” I’ll give you a hint: cranberries are for autumn, spinach is for summer, and spring remains to be determined.
pork loin roulade with apples and walnuts
Learn from my mistakes: pork loin and pork tenderloin are not at all the same thing. They both go by many names, but what you’re looking for in this recipe is pork loin, pork roast, or center loin. It’s a big chunk of meat, shaped like a block, with a nice layer of white fat on top. If it looks kind of like a certain genital thing, it’s a pork tenderloin and will turn out completely differently in this recipe (so don’t use that one.)
Also, get yourself a good digital meat thermometer. When roasting meat, it’s easy to overcook the meat, and with pork more than anything else, it’s easy to dry out the meat too much. Anything you cook will continue cooking after you remove it from its heat source, so you can consider removing the pork from the oven when it registers between 140 – 145* degrees Fahrenheit. Adding brandy and cider to the roasting pan/Dutch oven will help, and if you think your pork dried out just a bit too much, then go heavy on the brandied apples on top.
*For anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience cooking meat, make sure you cook pork all the way through (it’s not the same as beef, which has a wider range of safe temperatures.)
for the pork roulade
8 garlic cloves
1/2 c walnuts (2 oz)
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp fennel seeds, divided
1 tsp anise seeds or ground anise
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 c honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
1/2 of one large granny smith apple, or any other red apple (save the other half for the brandied apple topping)
1 2-pound boneless pork loin or tenderloin
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c apple brandy
for the brandied apples
1 shallot, cut in half and sliced
1/2 of one large granny smith apple, or any other red apple
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c apple brandy
1/2 c apple cider
1/2 c honey
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp orange zest (zest from 1/4 of a large orange)
make the pork roulade
Preheat oven to 400°.
In a small food processor, pulse together the garlic cloves, walnuts, 1 Tbsp of the fennel seeds, a hefty pinch of salt, the spices, a splash of olive oil, and the honey, until coarse and chunky but not too pasty. Set aside until the pork is ready.
Place pork, fat side down, on a cutting board with the short end toward you. Holding a sharp knife parallel to board and about 1/2 inch up side of loin, make an incision along entire length of one side. Continue cutting, lifting meat with your free hand as you go, until loin is open and flat. Alternately, stand the pork up on one of the long sides so you’re cutting vertically, if that’s easier. This process is called butterflying.
Cover the butterflied pork with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper, and using a meat mallet, pound out the meat until it becomes a little thinner and more even.
Spread garlic mixture over inside of loin and season with salt and pepper. Chop the half of the apple into small chunks, about 1 centimeter or 1/2″ wide. Place the apple bits evenly around the pork on top of the garlic mixture.
Roll pork tightly; using kitchen twine, tie at 1 inch intervals. Rub the outside of the roulade with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 tsp of fennel seeds.
Place the pork, fat side up, in a large cast iron pot, skillet, or roasting pan. Add the apple brandy; roast pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of loin registers 140 – 145*, about 1 hour (the pork will continue to cook a bit after you take it out of the oven.) *Start checking after about 40-45 minutes.
When the pork is done, remove it from the pot and set aside to rest. Pour the liquid and fat from the pot into a large measuring cup and scrape out any brown bits. If needed, bring the liquid and fat to a simmer before you pour it off so that you can deglaze the pot and scrape out any stubborn browned bits. Keep the mixture for the topping.
make the brandied apples
Place the emptied pot or a clean sauce pan on medium heat and add a splash of olive oil.
Chop the other half of the apple into small chunks just like the first half.
When the oil is heated, add the shallot slices and apple chunks and saute for 3-5 minutes until both start to brown a bit.
Add the minced garlic and saute for about a minute until you can smell the garlic.
Add the apple brandy and bring to a simmer, deglazing the pot again and reducing the liquid by half. Pour the roasting liquid and fat back into the pot and add the apple cider, then bring everything to a simmer. Add the honey, bring to a simmer/boil, and let it cook until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
Add the butter and orange zest, and whisk until the butter melts. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Slice the roulade evenly (slices about 1″-2″ thick), and serve with the apple brandy sauce.