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Archive for the ‘Pork’ Category

We are in the middle of our 5-Part Cooking Fundamentals series – one of the most popular recent additions to our cooking classes. We cover knife skills, soups, stocks, sauces, meat, seafood, vegetables and even some basic baking. Last week the focus was on beef and pork and we got to talk about one of our favorite things: brining. Brining is a sure-fire way to keep your meat moist and simply refers to soaking meat in a saltwater solution. The science it simple: the salt helps break down the protein while penetrating it deeply with seasoning. This means that even the leanest piece of meat (those that are most likely to dry out when cooked) can be moist and flavorful.

For many, brining only happens around Thanksgiving and usually ends before it begins when you’re faced with the fact there’s no way you can fit a 20-lb turkey, submerged in salt water in your fridge. But don’t give up on brining! It’s actually something you can easily do to help improve your quick weeknight dinners. Here’s how it works:

First, it’s important to know which cuts of meat benefit from brining. Typically lean poultry and pork are the answer. Chicken breasts, pork chops and pork loin are all good contenders for brining.

Then there is the brine itself. The basic ratio is 1 tablespoon kosher salt to 1 cup ice water. We also like to add a little sugar and some fresh herbs for flavor. The key to success is to dissolve the salt and sugar in a small amount of warm water and then add it to the ice water. That way the salt and sugar are completely dissolved and begin working their way into the meat immediately.

Lastly, you have to determine how long to brine. For a whole turkey, it’s best to do it overnight. For bone-in chicken or a whole pork loin, give it anywhere from 2 – 6 hours in the brine. But for boneless chicken breasts or pork chops, they only need about 30 minutes – 1 hour to benefit from the salty solution.

One more important note: Once you’ve removed the meat from the brine, it’s critical to rinse it in VERY cold water for about 1 full minute – this rinses off the excess salt so that the finished product isn’t salty. Then be sure to pat the meat very dry before searing or roasting – otherwise you won’t get that golden crust we all know and love.

We brine all sorts of things in our kitchen, but this recipe is one of our favorites. It’s a quick-brined pork chop that is jam-packed with flavor. We top it with a pear-leek compote that is super easy and delicious. Once you’ve tried this recipe, you will never eat a cardboard-dry pork chop again!

Brined Pork Chop with Pear-Leek Compote

serves 4

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 small bunch fresh thyme

4 bone-in pork chops (about 1-inch thick)

1 tbl butter

2 leeks, white part only, cut into thin half-rings

3 bosc pears, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tbl chopped fresh thyme

3 tbl honey

1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)

salt and pepper

Dissolve the salt and sugar in about 1/2 cup water water. Then combine with 4 cups ice water and the thyme in a large bowl. Place the pork into the water solution, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove pork from the brine, rinse under very cold water for 1 full minute and pat very dry.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. When melted, add the leeks and cook for 10 minutes until soft. Add the pears, thyme and honey. Increase heat to high and cook until beginning to sizzle. Add the chicken stock (or water) and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes – liquid should reduce by half and pear should be soft but not falling apart. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat an oven-safe skillet over high heat. Drizzle pan with olive oil and place the pork into the hot pan. (NOTE: There is no need to season the pork with salt – the brine has given it plenty of flavor.) Cook for 3-5 minutes until golden, turn over and place pan directly into oven. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes.

Serve the pork chop topped with the pear compote. Enjoy!

NOTE ABOUT COOKING PORK:

Pork does not need to be cooked to well-done and, in fact, is far too lean to be tasty when cooked all the way through. We recommend you cook your pork to medium-well – that means just a tiny bit of pink in the center.

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