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dinner tonight

January 21, 2009

The only thing left in the fridge tonight was pork chops. Good ones, from Whole Foods, but still, pork chops. I was a little later getting home tonight, so I didn’t have a ton of time to cook anything, and with pork chops, there’s always a big risk of a fast cooking method causing them to dry out.

When I’m worried about dried out pork chops, I usually brine them. But my usual brine takes an hour at least, which I did not have time for. So I threw caution to the wind and tried a super-concentrated brine, soaked the chops for only 25 minutes, and then baked them for 22 minutes. A quick pan-sear when they came out finished them off. Yummy.

So, I used a quarter-cup of kosher salt, a quarter-cup of brown sugar (not packed), a half-cup of cider vinegar, and about a quart of water. Stirred till the salt and sugar were completely dissolved, put the chops and the brine in a gallon zip-top bag, and let them sit for 25 minutes. I patted them dry when they came out, sprinkled them with salt, fresh ground black pepper, and a light dusting of garlic powder. I wanted a little bit of moisture on them for the baking, but usually I use worcestershire and that didn’t seem right. So I mixed one part raspberry chipotle salsa and one part soy sauce, spooned it over the chops on both sides, then baked them for 22 minutes at 350.

When they came out, they weren’t quite done, so I seared them in a pan, about 1-1/2 minutes on each side, over high heat. They got a nice caramelized crust in the searing; the acid in the vinegar helped tenderize the chops—which, I’m sure also helped the brine penetrate them—as well as gave them a very nice flavor.

Vinegar in brine is probably not a good idea for a longer brine, since the acid will cure the meat (think ceviche), but for flash-brining? Perfect.

Categories: food
  1. Chad
    January 22, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Not bad. But a quick correction — acid denatures proteins, essentially “cooking” meat, such as ceviche. It does not cure meat in the traditional sense.

  2. LL
    January 26, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I’m deeply jealous of your cooking prowess. I can only follow recipes. I follow them very well, but any improvising at all makes me nervous. I’d love to just look at some meat and DO something with it. Maybe I need to start watching the Food Network in all my free time? How does one figure these things out? I’m starting at a knowledge level of having to google “braising” when I read your short ribs post.

  3. k
    January 26, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    You know, I think I just started experimenting. Sometimes I’d find a recipe and it would call for something I didn’t have so I’d just make it with something else. And I’d figure out what worked (and what didn’t). When something worked, I’d try it again later in another dish, and so on and so forth.

    I guess the one thing to remember is that, in the process of learning to throw things together, you are going to make some stuff that is not going to be very good. (And every now and then, you’ll make something that is totally delicious. Write down how you made it Right Away. Otherwise, you’ll forget and you’ll never be able to replicate it again, and your spouse will hound you with requests to “make that chicken you made that one time, it was so good” and you’ll try, and it just won’t be the same.)

    Also, I got a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated fairly early on in learning to cook, and it was totally worth it. It’s a pretty reasonably price subscription, it’s well-written with good, accessible recipes, and the best part is that each recipe will often have a variation–like, a pancake recipe that also has a buttermilk variation, and a whole wheat variation, and a blueberry variation. When you see how one recipe can be altered by using different ingredients, even if it’s just for a sauce, you start to see how different flavors work together (or don’t).

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