Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Grilled Pig

Y'all are going to get bored by my barbecue entries soon. But it's still new and exciting to us, so I make no apologies for invoking the Broil King once again. Tonight I decided to bury the hatchet on my grudge against pork chops. Let's face it: they're cheap, filling, and when trimmed of fat, pretty healthy. My problem is overcooking - I've had one too many rock-hard, dry, chewy pieces of pork to be a huge fan of the humble chop. But occasionally, in restaurants, I've seen magic worked on this piece of meat. I can tolerate them breaded and oven-baked. So I figured trying them at a gentle heat on the grill might work.

Turns out, I was right. I seasoned two 3/4'" thick bone-in chops with salt and cracked pepper and Chris grilled them gently for about twelve minutes, along with two foil packets filled with chunks of sweet potato, chopped Vidalia onion, and a little butter.

While he was outside grilling, I put together a sauce from the latest issue of Cooking Light, based around red currant jelly, which I adore. It also contained garlic, green onion (subbed for the shallots I forgot to buy), dried thyme and coriander, chicken broth and a splash of apple cider vinegar. It turned out remarkably similar to the cranberry-balsamic sauce I've been making for pork for years, but a bit lighter and more summery-tasting. Since today was the first springlike day we've seen since mid-March, it seemed apropos. The gently grilled chops were tender and very juicy, though Chris thought they could have stood with even a little less cooking time. The foil packets, once opened, were a revelation. There is some sort of alchemical reaction between sweet potato and sweet onion that is so much more than one expects. The scent - lightly caramelized sugars, sharp edge from the onion, earthy tubers - is indescribable. It smells, to me, of camping, of meals eaten outdoors with people I love.

In other words, a damn fine dinner for a weeknight. Or any night, for that matter.

As I type this, I've just finished making tomorrow night's dinner, since we have movie passes for 7 p.m. which won't leave us much time for food between work and the cinema. It's a variation on last month's lentil, bacon and kale soup, with white kidney beans subbed in for the lentils and red swiss chard for the kale. It smells amazing and tastes pretty darned good even now, but I'm betting it's going to be utterly divine reheated tomorrow after work with a slice of ancient grains bread and a little butter to mop up the broth.

Now I just have to make myself something for lunch. On our way home from running some errands tonight, I was mentally running through my cupboard stocks, trying to decide if I needed to stop at the store or if I could find a protein source that wasn't tuna (I ate an entire can with salad for lunch today, and I think I've hit my limit for the week). Then I remembered the can of black beans in the pantry, the half a red bell pepper in the fridge, and the bag of corn kernels in the freezer. These simple base ingredients make one heck of a Southwestern salad when combined properly.

Southwestern-style corn and black bean salad

1 cup frozen corn kernels. thawed
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed well
1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
juice of half a lime
2 tsp canola oil
dash worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper to taste
salad greens

Combine corn, beans, and peppers in a large mixing bowl and set aside. In a bowl or jar, whisk together remaining ingredients except salad greens and pour over corn/bean mixture. Stir well to combine and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour and preferably overnight. Serve over torn salad greens. Can be garnished with a little grated cheese if you like.

One last note: I have no idea what happened with the photos from the tagine entry. It was fine, then they disappeared. I have re-uploaded the damned things three times now and they will not show up. In the interests of not putting my laptop through a wall, I am leaving it alone until tomorrow. Argh.


Ron said...

Pork chops only take 4 - 5 minutes per side over medium-high heat, depending on their thickness, turning once. Next time, try them with the pepperberry spice rub.

Alison said...

That's not what the interweb said, but I tend to agree. Also: I totally forgot about the rub until I went in the pantry after dinner and saw it there! I blame the cats.