Thursday, November 21, 2013

Emeril's Honey-Brined Pork Chops

Anyone with young kids can attest to the difficulties that cold and flu season bring every year to the daily routine (as glamorous as it might sound to watch 3 straight hours of Doc McStuffins episodes with a sick 4-year old, I can assure you, it's not). The twisted logic I had in my head when we moved to Florida was that people living in mild climates surely must suffer less from fall/winter illness than residents of the North; sadly, with Hackknife Jr. regularly coughing this week and Hackknifette dealing with a bout of flu, I've found this hypothesis to be completely untrue thus far (grrr...). Still, while both children (and their viruses) are restlessly snoozing away this evening, I decided to attempt to pound out a quick posting or two before Thanksgiving is upon us. A few weeks ago, I got inspired by the sauteeing/browning exercises in my basics cooking class at Publix (especially the steak au poivre, where we used a cast iron skillet to sear both sides of the meat before finishing in the oven) to try a recipe at home requiring the same skills. Among the swag we received at the Norman's Gala in Orlando was one of Emeril Lagasse's recent cookbooks entitled "Farm to Fork", in which is his version of honey-brined pork chops with an optional nectarine chutney (since we also brought home a jar of Dean Fearing's sun-kissed apricot sauce from the event, I opted out of the chutney). In this recipe, bone-in pork chops are brined for several hours in a mixture of honey (quite a bit in fact, 2 cups), salt, pepper, fresh thyme, and cloves. The brine can be made the night before and provides a pleasant-smelling autumn potpourri aroma in the kitchen while boiling (although my kids begged to differ on the odor). After the brine chills overnight in the fridge, you simply drop in the chops, let them marinate until dinnertime, sear in a cast iron pan (practicing my newly-learned tricks), and roast in the oven until cooked through. The chops in the recipe need 10 to 12 minutes to reach 165F; however, mine were pretty thick and actually required closer to a half-hour. Despite the delay, I ended up with beautifully moist and tender pork (see photo above) that had a slight sweetness from the honey that even the progeny didn't mind. The apricot sauce enhanced the meat a little, but I'd be perfectly happy serving these again completely naked save for a little salt and pepper...

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