I hate most pork chops. Ok, maybe not hate. Pork chops and I have this…relationship. They make all these sweet promises and never deliver. Sitting in front of my empty plate feeling disappointed and betrayed, I always swear them off. Everything is fine until one day, suddenly, when I least expect it, they’re back looking all tempting and delicious! And there I am, the dolt, thinking “Ok, well, I’ll just give them one more chance…”
The idea is great (mmmm, a chop of porky goodness) and they smell divine almost without fail. I just can’t dodge the fact that most preparations I’ve encountered have been nigh inedible.
Dry, gray, tasteless… most pork chops are the opposite of what is good.
But recently, I had a few run in’s (Vinegar Hill House, Foreign Cinema ) with thick, succulent, juicy, crispy chops and it gave me pause. How did they do it? How did they make what typically amounts to pork hockey pucks incredibly tender?
Having recently assembled our own immersion circulator, we thought perhaps we had the answer…
We’ll ease up on the sous vide posts for a little while after this, we promise, but we just had to see if we could achieve pork chop perfection.
First we brined the chops:
5 dried apricots, chopped
1/4c dried cherries, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, smashed
5 juniper berries, crushed
2 tbs fennel seed
Bring this mixture to a boil in a medium saucepan and let bubble away for 5 minutes. We just want to get it nice and hot to meld the flavors a bit. Remove from heat and pour into a freezer safe bowl. I floated my bowl with the brine in it in another bowl filled with cold water to bring the temperature down quickly. The idea is to not put something in your freezer near boiling. That would be bad. Once the brine is no longer piping hot, stick it in the freezer until it is about 40F. Rinse your chops then dump everything, including the chops, in your brining vessel. Brine for 6-18 hours.
Take your chops out, give them a quick rinse again, and place them in your vacuum bag. Seal em all up with a bit of salt and pepper and cook in the water bath at 145F for 6 hours. Ok, I know you are thinking “But I always cook pork to 160! What about trichinosis? Salmonella!? Let me assure you that the FDA recently revised their cooking temps to 145F for pork. We’ve been officially released to enjoy rare(er) pork! Your chops may look ever so slightly pink when you are done but don’t worry! If you just can’t deal with that idea, feel free to hike up the temperature.
After 6 hours pull out your chops and pat them dry. We want to move quickly here so your dinner doesn’t get cold. You’ll have accumulated a good bit of liquid in the bag. Pour that into a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer:
Add the following to the saucepan to make a quick jus:
1/4c dry sherry or white wine
splash of balsamic vinegar
1 shallot or ¼ small onion, chopped
1 sprig rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
Here you’ll need to do double duty a bit, searing your chops and keeping an eye on your simmering jus which you should strain before serving.
Heat some of your oil of choice in a good sized pan (I like olive, but some don’t appreciate the flavor it imparts). Sear the chops on all sides once the pan is very hot. We aren’t cooking them, remember, just giving them a nice brown crust.
We served our chops with the strained jus, some sautéed spinach with garlic and lemon, and the gnocchi found here.