There are three things that I can’t cook to save my life. I’ll admit that right here, right now. Perfect white rice, hard boiled eggs and pork chops. I am happy to report that one has been crossed off the list. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I can now cook a mean pork chop. Rice and hard boiled eggs remain ever elusive….
You read that right. For all the things that I can cook, I have never been able to master the art of the pork chop. They always sound like such a good idea. “What’s for dinner?” “Pork chops!” It was always a disappointment. A few weeks ago, hubs asked me to try and grill pork chops. I said I would try, but we would probably end up at Taco Bell. We didn’t.
Have you heard of brining? I knew that this was something that TV chefs like to do, especially with turkeys. The theory behind brining is that by soaking your meat in a liquid mixture chock full of sugar and salt, your meat will absorb the flavors and become super tender. I knew I had to try this because my pork chops end up somewhere between a tennis shoe and cardboard.
I came up with my own briny mixture. I knew the basics were liquid/salt/sugar. For my liquid, I used beer! I also used some water, dried garlic, onion powder and pepper to mix in with the beer, salt and sugar. I figured the beer would add more flavor than just water. I was correct.
This differs from a marinade in the sense that the meat really swims in this mixture as opposed to just soaking in a bit of flavor/moister. I used a really big sealable bowl to brine my pork chops. They can really “swim” in this kind of bowl.
I used 4 bone-in pork chops. I threw everything into my resealable bowl and let the chops swim in the brine for 4 hours. They did this in the fridge. This is a cold swim, not a hot tub. You could let your chops swim all day while you are at work, but I wouldn’t go more than about 8 hours, or less than 3.
While the chops soaked, the salt and sugar worked on the cells in the meat, breaking them down. This makes the meat super tender. You may now refer to me as “Bill Nye, the Science Guy”. What’s that you say? Somebody is already called that?
I grilled my chops on my BBQ. As the BBQ heated up, I took the chops out of the brine and dried them off with paper towels. Don’t worry, the chops won’t be super salty when they are done. I promise.
My chops weren’t super thick, so they grilled pretty quickly. It took about 2 minutes each side to sear them. Then, I put the lid on and let them finish cooking through, about 5 minutes. At the end, I basted my chops with Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBQ sauce, which is a mustard based BBQ sauce.
Eureka! Juicy, tender pork chops! The brine really works. The chops tasted smoky and delicious, with a slight hint of beer and mustard. Like I said above, they don’t taste salty or too sweet from the brine. They ended up fantastic!
Now…..what to serve on the side…what to serve, what to serve? How about a grilled Caesar salad? Yep, you can grill lettuce. And croutons. This way, you don’t have to cook inside and outside, and the grilling imparts a wonderful smoky flavor to the lettuce and croutons.
For my salad, I used romaine hearts because I need it to hold together on the grill. A bag of salad will obviously not work. I also used garlic olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBS sauce (again!), egg (I used egg beaters to prevent a horrific case of salmonella in my family), asiago cheese, and salt and pepper.
Let’s start with the croutons. I sliced a baguette in about ½ inch slices. I brushed both sides with garlic olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. These will grill super-fast! If they are on direct heat, they will get brown and toasty in under a minute. You have to be on it….don’t walk away!
Then, you need to get the romaine hearts on the grill. I sliced them in half, lengthwise. I brushed the halves with garlic olive oil, then sprinkled them with salt and pepper. And yes, you can use regular old olive oil if you want. Or vegetable oil. Or coconut oil. The choices are endless.
These will cook on the grill for about 3 to 4 minutes each side. Just enough to get a slight char on them and wilt the leaves a bit. This goes fast too.
Earlier in the day, I like to make my dressing. In my blender, I put enough egg beaters to equal one egg, garlic olive oil, a clove of garlic, lemon juice, Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper. Normally a Caesar dressing would contain anchovies but my husband is adamant that I not use them. If he isn’t watching, I throw them in. Anchovies add a nice nutty, salty bite. But the husband is not so adventurous.
This gets blended together until it is smooth and pretty thick. It will keep in the fridge until you need it.
Once the lettuce is done grilling, you can either serve it whole, or you can chop it up once it cools. I usually choose to chop it up. Then, I cover the grilled lettuce with parmesan cheese and dressing. I also top my salad with grilled croutons. Since I happen to have a grilled pork chop handy…. I also chopped that up and added it to the salad. However you want to serve it….You will love this salad.
The grilled lettuce is smoky and delicious, the croutons are garlicky and crunchy, and the dressing is crazy good. As for the pork chops, like I said, not too salty or sweet, but perfect!
Happy Father’s Day to all of you dads out there! If you need a present for dad, come see me at the Summit Farmer’s Market on Saturday or the Sparks Farmer’s Market tomorrow night!
Beer Brined Pork Chops
4 bone-in pork chops
1 bottle of beer
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon minced, dried garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
½ cup Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBQ Sauce
In a large bowl, combine beer, water, salt, sugar, garlic, onion powder and pepper. Submerge pork chops in mixture. Place lid on bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, but no more than 8.
Pre-heat grill. Take chops out of brine and dry off well. Sear chops over high heat for about 2 minutes per side. Move chops to indirect heat and continue cooking until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Baste chops with BBQ sauce at the end of cooking. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Grilled Caesar Salad
One bag of romaine hearts (4 hearts)
1 cup asiago or parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 cup Garlic olive oil for brushing on lettuce and bread
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Slice baguette into ½ inch slices. Brush evenly with ½ the garlic olive oil and sprinkle evenly with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Place on grill over indirect heat. Grill until brown and toasty on both sides, about 1-2 minutes.
Slice romaine hearts in half, lengthwise. Brush evenly with remaining garlic olive oil and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Grill, over direct heat, for about 3 minutes per side, or until lettuce is slightly charred. Remove from grill and set aside to cool.
Chop lettuce if desired and top with cheese, BBQ dressing and croutons.
BBQ Caesar Dressing
1 clove garlic
¼ cup egg beaters or other egg substitute
¼ cup Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBQ Sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ lemon juice
½ cup garlic olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Makes about 1 cup.