To brine or not to brine? If Shakespeare was a cook, I am sure he would have asked this existential question instead of the dull, “To be or not to be.”
Chris, one of my servers here in the restaurant, always swore by brining, so I tried it out and had to admit that he was right (damn). But you’ll benefit from Chris’s hard work.
What is brining? First of all, it’s simple, so don’t be afraid. Basically, it is just putting a protein in a salt solution for a little while to make it tender while incorporating flavor.
But I have a few tips for brining: First, make sure the pork is completely covered in the brine. Second, you want to brine for at least six hours but no longer than 12. Last, before you cook the pork, make sure you pat it dry and then season it.
Now for this recipe, I’m taking a twist on the traditional pork chops and applesauce, offering a chops with a ginger-apple chutney. Peter Brady (and Humphrey Bogart) would be proud.
Serves four hungry people
2 bay leaves
1 tbs. whole black pepper
1 cup water
3 ounces kosher salt
2 ounces sugar
2 sprigs fresh thyme
7 cups water
8 boneless center cut pork chops, one-inch thick
1/8 tsp. paprika
1 tbs. cracked black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
For the chutney:
1 tbs. canola oil
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1-1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
3 pinches cayenne pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground cumin
3 cups water
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 tbs. corn starch
1 tbs. chopped chives
1 tbs. mint leaves
Take the seven first ingredients and bring them to a boil and then add to the rest of the water. Rinse your pork chops then submerge them into the brining liquid and put in the fridge for at least six hours. Told you it was easy. Now start your chutney.
In a medium saucepan on medium heat, heat the oil and add the peppers, red onion and ginger sauté this until the vegetables start to get soft. To this add vinegar, cinnamon, bay leaves, cayenne, salt, pepper, sugar, cumin, and water. Let this simmer for 10 minutes. Add the apples and cook for another five minutes.
Now mix the corn starch and two more ounces of water and stir it into the chutney. Let it cook for another minute then lay it out on a cookie sheet. When it is cool add the fresh herbs. Serve at room temperature.
Take the pork out of the liquid and rinse under cold water to remove the excess salt. Pat them very dry with a towel and drizzle them with some canola oil and season with the pepper, paprika and thyme. Do not add any more salt unless you’re going for high blood pressure. I like these on a very hot grill for about four minutes on each side charred not burnt. Medium is fine! Don’t listen to your Mom on this one; you can not get sick from undercooked pork anymore. Besides it will be more tender and juicier.
Pork chops are like blue jeans, you can pair them up with anything.
Joe Raiola is the executive chef at Morton’s The Steakhouse [339 Adams St. between Willoughby and Tillary streets in Downtown, (718) 596-2700].