The brine brought flavors to the pork that I’d never tasted before. I should likely add that I don’t often use the spices called for here. I can’t remember the last time I used Juniper Berries and Fennel seeds don’t get much of a workout in our kitchen. The chops were exquisitely seasoned, the garlic came through along with a hint of Rosemary but the excitement was the juniper and fennel. The original recipe called for pan frying alone but I’d had such success with Melissa Clark’s admonishment to finish chops in the oven (see https://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2014/02/cooking-school-melissa-clark-and-alex.html), that I switched cooking methods and ended up with a beautifully roasted chop—tender as can be, not dried out in the least. The accompanying Roasted Garlic Butter was the icing on this particular cake. With this sizeable piece of meat, we served a simple stir fry of asparagus and mushrooms. Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe, this couldn’t be a simpler side to prepare. The only time involved here is the overnight marinade the chops underwent. Making the brine was easy. I roasted the garlic for the butter in the toaster oven. And here was a company-worthy dinner, a really manly one, if I do say so myself. These double chops are easy to cut yourself from a bone in pork loin. I got mine at Costco. But any good butcher should be happy to provide you with what you need. Here are the recipes:
Double Cut Pork Chops with Roasted Garlic Butter and a side of Stir Fried Asparagus and Mushrooms
Pork is the world’s most widely eaten meat. It accounts for 38 percent of meat production worldwide. You’ll have trouble finding it in the Middle East and most of the Muslim world because both Jewish kosher and Islamic halal diets ban it outright. But almost everywhere else on earth including Asia, Europe, and the Americas, pork is in recipes and on menus everywhere. Nowhere comes close to China which, at any given moment, has 1 billion pigs on its farms.
In the mid 80s, in the US, the National Pork Board called pork “the other white meat”, advertising so successful I wish I’d written it myself: 87 percent of consumers identified pork with the slogan. And still do, despite the fact that it hasn’t been used since 2011. It might come as a bit of a surprise to know first, that the USDA considers pork a red meat and second, that the only real reason the Pork Board jumped on the white meat bandwagon was the public’s perception that chicken and turkey were healthier than red meat. It is true that Pork, with its fat trimmed, is leaner than most meats but certainly not chicken or turkey. And even the ‘new’ leaner pork is still high in cholesterol and saturated fat. And as any good cook will tell you, fat is a flavor carrier that’s hard to replace. But chefs have found a way to amp up pork’s flavor. They brine their pork. But I had never tried it until recently. And I am here to say, I am a convert. I recently brined what we jokingly referred to as ‘a side of pork’, chops so enormous they must have been almost three inches thick. And the results were spectacular.
Recipe for Double Cut Pork Chops with Roasted Garlic Butter
20 minutes Prep and Cooking for the Brine. Overnight Resting.
For the pork chops and brine:
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 cup sugar
4 sprigs rosemary
4 bay leaves
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon juniper berries
5 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
4 double-cut bone-in pork rib chops (2 inches thick; about 5 pounds total)
Freshly ground pepper
For the roasted garlic butter:
1 head garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling and brushing
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1. Make the brine: Combine the salt, peppercorns, sugar, rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, 3 tablespoons each juniper berries and fennel seeds, the garlic and 2 cups water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally, then remove from the heat. Transfer the brine to a large bowl and add 6 cups cold water; let cool completely. Submerge the pork chops in the brine, cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the roasted garlic butter: Cut off the top 1/4 inch of the garlic head and set it on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil, then wrap in the foil and place in the oven. Cook until the garlic is softened, about 30 minutes; let cool.
3. Meanwhile, remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels; set aside.
4. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from the skins into a food processor. Add the butter, rosemary, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
5. Prepare the pork: Grind the remaining 1 teaspoon juniper berries and 2 tablespoons fennel seeds in a spice grinder or finely chop. Season the pork with the ground spices and salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet until it is hot. Put the chops in the skillet and brown for 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the stove. Flip the chops over and place them in the oven cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 145 degrees F. (about 15 minutes depending on thickness of the chops.
Remove the pork chops from the grill and spread the roasted garlic butter on top. Let rest at least 10 minutes.
While the Pork is in the oven, prepare the side dish.
Recipe for Asparagus and Mushroom Stir Fry adapted from Martha Stewart Prep Time 15 mins. Total Time 25 mins. Serves 4
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
splash of Soy Sauce
1 bunch medium or thick asparagus, tough ends trimmed, stalks sliced into 1 1/2-inch lengths
8 ounces fresh baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and mushrooms, splash on the soy sauce and saute just until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.