Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Brined Pork Chops with Fennel Pollen

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Brined Pork Chops with Fennel Pollen

Serves: 4
Brined Pork Chops with Fennel Pollen 
Pork is the “other white meat”. The advertising slogan worked well and many people increased their pork consumption. Despite the slogan, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA), treats pork as a red meat. However, it is quite a bit leaner than similar cuts of beef. The most common cuts of pork have 16% less total fat and 27% less saturated fat than 20 years ago. Today’s leaner pork can be enjoyed medium rare. The USDA recently announced that pork could be safely cooked to 145 degree F followed by a three-minute rest time, resulting in juicy and tender pork. As an added plus, pork is relatively inexpensive, very tender and very flavorful.

This is definitely a plan ahead recipe as the brine last three days. Yes, I said 3 days! I did not believe it mattered at first so tried it after one day vs. three days. It was a huge difference in the depth of flavor imbued into the pork. It takes no extra cooking or prep time. One just needs to set it up three days before cooking and serving.

Brining is a powerful tool. It cures meats, as well as change their texture, flavor and juiciness. It also allows you to season meat uniformly. Gone are the days of dry pork! It absorbs flavors well and, because of the nature of the osmotic effect of salt, the meat actually retains more moisture after cooking. I ALWAYS brine pork and chicken….always, always. So spend the extra few minutes to create your brine and you will be amply rewarded with an amazing moist and tasty pork chop.

From a technique standpoint, the one critical thing to remember is that the brine needs to be completely chilled before you add the meat. Therefore, it is a good idea to make your brine the day before you’ll need it. Brine times are important and vary with cut and type of meat – so stick to them – but keep in mind that the brined food does not have to be cooked immediately. Once brined, it can be removed and refrigerated for a day before being cooked. Finally, discard the brine after its use – never reuse it.
  • 4 bone-in 1-inch thick pork rib chops
  • 1½ Tb wild fennel pollen*

For the brine:
  • ½ C salt
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 2 Tb fennel seed
  • 2 Tb coriander seed
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs celery with their leaves, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1½ Qtrs. cold water

To make the brine: In a large pot add all ingredients and stir to combine. Heat to boiling for 2 minutes just to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from stove and refrigerate until cool or chill overnight. Then submerge 4 bone-in 1-inch pork rib chops in the brine and refrigerate for 3 days. After 3 days remove the chops from the brine; discarding brine.
Brine ingredients
Pork chops swimming in brine
Preheat your grill or grill pan. Roll the fat edge of each pork chop with the fennel pollen
Role edge of the chop in the fennel pollen
Dusted with fennel pollen
Place pork chops gently on the preheated grill. After 4 minutes rotate the chops 90 degrees to create lovely grill marks. Grill the chops for another 4 minutes and then turn over and repeat the process. If the chops seem to be burning move them to a cooler part of the grill to allow for a longer cooking time without burning. Stand the chops up so the fat edge is in contact with the grill to crisp up the fat edge, this will also make the fennel pollen very aromatic. Remove the chops from the grill and let rest in a warm place 5 minutes before serving. Pork is done at 140-145 degree F.
On the grill
Grilling the edge (not publisher's hands again!!)
Lined up on the grill
This is wonderful on its own or served with polenta, buttered noodles or vegetables. I served it recently with grilled corn on the cob and sautéed fresh lima beans. A California Pinot Noir is the quintessential wine. Other choices would be a fruity Zinfandel, Syrah or Merlot. If white wines are your preference, serve with a California Chardonnay. In any case, please give this a try. Do not be intimidated by the three-day brine, as you will be rewarded with amazing flavor.

Bon Appetit!


* If fennel pollen is not available, toasted ground fennel seeds are an acceptable alternative. But, I use fennel pollen on so many things; it might be worth obtaining some. See: http://www.pollenranch.com


  1. I was lucky enough to have this served to me! It was delicious!

  2. And I was lucky enough to have you here!!

  3. I was luck enough to try this recipe this weekend. Truly Amazing!!!! thanks for sharing!

    1. so glad you found and loved it!!