Cumin & Fennel Crusted Pork Chop with Chipotle Peach Salsa
Difficulty level: Moderate
|Cumin & Fennel Crusted Pork Chop with Chipotle Peach Salsa|
Quick – get out there and make this before the peaches disappear. I have made it twice in the last few weeks because I loved the sweet-spicy tang of the salsa with the juicy smoky grilled pork chop. I was tempted to list this as difficulty: easy but the 24-brine and managing the BBQ likely added just a wee bit of complexity. But, trust me, it is easy peasy. If there is any left, these thick cut pork chops taste just as good cold. The peach salsa is also great the next day, and day after – with fish, chicken or chips. So give it try – I mean NOW – while the peaches are still spectacular.
Pork is the “other white meat” as well as relatively inexpensive, tender and flavorful. 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.
One of my favorite previous postings: Brined Pork Chops with Fennel Pollen, is worth reviewing. It is more complex with a three-day brine resulting in an amazing finish utilizing fennel pollen. http://cookingwithlarue.blogspot.com/2012/09/brined-pork-chops-with-fennel-pollen.html. This recipe is a variation on that – I used pulverized fennel (and cumin) seeds in the crusting after a one-day simplified brine. Pork and fruit is a natural match. Check out my Grilled Pork Chops with Fresh Plum Chutney: http://cookingwithlarue.blogspot.com/2013/07/grilled-pork-chops-with-fresh-plum.html. I truly always try to find the time to brine pork and chicken for as long as time allows. Brining is a powerful tool as it cures meat and seasons it uniformly. Because of the osmotic effect of salt, the meat actually retains more moisture after cooking. If you have never done so, use this as an excuse to give it a try. You will be amazed at how MOIST a pork chop can be. 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.
Chipotles are dried, smoked jalapeños. Adobo is a tangy, slightly sweet red sauce. Put them together in a can and they become a versatile pantry staple. Use just the chipotles for intense smoky chile heat or just the sauce for a sour-sweet flavor and a slightly less fiery smoky heat. The chipotles are soft and ready to go straight from the can. They can be quite spicy, but the heat can be tempered a bit by scraping out the seeds. Cans of chiles en adobo seem to be pretty common. Look for them near the other hot sauces and canned foods or in the Mexican foods aisle at your grocery store. Unused portions can be refrigerated in a clean airtight container for about a month or frozen for several months.
- 3 Tb honey
- 6 Bay leaves
- 2 large rosemary sprigs
- ½ bunch (½ ounce) thyme sprigs
- ¼ bunch flat-leaf parsley (1 ounce)
- 4-5 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 Tb whole black peppercorns
- ½ C kosher salt
- 4-5 C water – or mix of water & ice (divided)
- 3 ripe but firm peaches, unpeeled, pitted and cut into ¼-inch pieces
- ¼ C red onion, finely diced
- 2 Tb canned chipotle chiles in adobo, seeded and minced (adjust to taste)
- ½ - 1 tsp sauce from can of chipotle chiles in adobo
- ¼ C fresh lime juice
- ¼ C fresh cilantro, chopped
- Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
For Pork Chops:
- ¼ C whole cumin seeds
- 2 Tb fennel seeds
- 6 pork rib chops, with bone-in, each about 1½” thick
- 3 Tb olive oil
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients and ½ the water in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Add ice to accomplish a more rapid cooling. Chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Later, once pork chops are added to brine, finish with remainder of water so chops are completely submerged in brine.
In a medium bowl, toss all ingredients together. Adjust chopped chipotle chiles to taste. Leave the seeds in your salsa if you want a real kick! Transfer all to a serving dish and set aside.
|Gotta get the peaches when they are at their peak sweetness|
|Chipotle Peach Salsa|
For Pork Chops:
First prepare your grill. If using gas grill, open hood, light all burners, and set on high. Close hood and preheat 10 minutes. If using charcoal, open bottom vents. Light charcoal. Leaving about ¼ of grill free of charcoal, move the lit charcoals across rest of grill so coals are about 3 times higher on opposite side.
While grill is heating, coat your pork chops. Remove from brine and dry gently with paper towels. Toss the brine liquid. Using a spice grinder, pulse cumin seeds 2-3 times to crack. Do the same with fennel seeds and mix them. Alternatively, place seeds on a cutting board and crush lightly with small sauté pan, using gentle rocking motions. Rub chops with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and coat with cumin/fennel seed mixture, pressing firmly to adhere.
|Dusted pork chops|
To cook chops using gas grill: When grill is preheated, sear chops on lightly oiled grill rack, turning over once, until well browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. Turn off 1-2 burners (middle if there are 4) and put chops above the shut off burners. Reduce heat on remaining burners to moderate and grill pork, covered with lid, until thermometer inserted diagonally into center of chop (avoid bone) registers 145-degree F, about 10 minutes total. Transfer chops to a platter and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes. (Temperatures will rise to 150 degree F).
To cook chops using a charcoal grill: Charcoal fire is medium-hot when you can hold your hand about 5 inches above rack over area where coals are piled highest for 3-4 seconds. Sear chops on lightly oiled grill rack directly over hottest part of coals, turning over once, until well browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. Move chops to coolest part of grill, then cover with inverted roasting pan and grill, turning over once, until thermometer inserted diagonally into center of chop (avoid bone) registers 145-degree F, about 10 minutes total. Transfer chops to a platter and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes. (Temperatures will rise to 150 degree F).
Serve chops, passing salsa on side. These are spectacular – very moist (thanks brine!) and flavorful (thanks cumin & fennel) augmented with the smoky sweet spicy peach salsa. You will not be disappointed. Now, quick, get those peaches while you can.
Thai Cucumber Salad next week! I promise...