Episode 76 – “Chops Ahoy”

Posted: March 10, 2017 in Season 6
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I have never been the biggest fan of pork chops. I remember sitting at the kitchen table when I was little, staring down a seemingly gray hunk of pork my mom had cooked for dinner, and dreaming of dessert; looking across the round oak table, my brother’s face mirrored my own. To this day, my mom says she has never understood why neither of her kids liked pork chops. My mom has always been a great cook, so I doubt she cooked pork chops poorly. Still, my impression of pork chops was summed up perfectly by Lorelai Gilmore when she said that eating pork chops is like sucking on a Pottery Barn catalog. I mean, really… tell me that you have never had that exact experience. So, last night for dinner, I set out to see if I could finally find a pork chop I liked.

Stuffed Grilled Pork Chops

After watching this episode of Good Eats, I determined that I needed to head to the local butcher shop to get my pork chops. See, according to Alton Brown, all pork chops are not created equal. While all pork chops come from the back of the pig, shoulder and sirloin chops are particularly tough and require wet cooking methods. Center-cut pork chops are the best, and Alton’s favorite center-cut chops are rib cut chops because they are composed of one muscle, making them the best choice for stuffed pork chops. My butcher shop cut two chops for me, making them about two inches thick, which is perfect for Alton’s recipe. For these chops, Alton insists that you make a brine, as pork is inherently dry, and a brine will serve to impart both flavor and moisture. To make the brine, combine in a lidded container 1 C Kosher salt, 1 C dark brown sugar, 1 T black peppercorns, and 1 T dry mustard. Add 2 C of hot cider vinegar and shake the container to dissolve everything.

Set the brine aside for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors fully develop. Next, add a pound of ice to the brine, and shake the container again until the ice is almost melted.

Now you are ready to place your chops into the brine, ensuring that they are completely covered. Though I only had two pork chops, I needed the full amount of brine to cover my chops, so if you are cooking four large chops, you may need to double the brine. Refrigerate the chops for two hours in the brine.

Toward the end of your brining period, you can make your pork chop stuffing. For four pork chops, combine 1 1/2 C crumbled cornbread, 1/4 C halved dried cherries, 2 T golden raisins, 1/4 C chopped walnuts, 2 t sliced fresh sage, 1/2 t pepper, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 C buttermilk.

Set the stuffing aside while you prep your brined chops. The online recipe tells you to rinse your brined chops, but Alton did not do this in the episode. I did pat my chops with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Next it is time to cut stuffing pockets in your pork chops. To do this, Alton placed his pork chops in a bagel slicer, but I just held mine with one hand and cut with the other. Either way, place your chops fat-side up and insert a long, thin knife (preferably a boning knife) straight down until you hit bone. Angle the blade up toward the surface, creating a cavity in one direction. Turn the knife around and cut in the other direction. You can check to see that your cavity is large enough by feeling with your finger. There is a video of Alton cutting his pockets, which you can access from the recipe link above.

In the episode, Alton used a large plastic syringe, with the tip cut off, to fill his pork chop pockets with stuffing. I used a plastic bag that I cut the corner out of, creating a makeshift piping bag. Still, I found that I had to use my fingers to push the filling down into the pocket. I filled my pork chops with as much filling as I could, and I used all of it.

To grill your pork chops, you will want to preheat your grill to high heat for at least 10 minutes. Brush your chops with oil and place them on the middle burner for 2 minutes.

Rotate the chops 90 degrees and leave them for 2 more minutes; this will create nice criss-cross grill marks.

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Pork chops, turned 90 degrees and left for 2 more minutes.

Flip your chops, leaving them for 2 minutes.

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Pork chops, flipped after 4 minutes of cooking. Left to cook 2 more minutes.

Finally, rotate the chops 90 degrees for a final 2 minutes.

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Pork chops, rotated 90 degrees to cook for 2 final minutes.

You want to cook your chops to an internal temperature of 140 degrees. If your chops are not done, place them over indirect heat and cook them until they reach 140. My chops took quite a lot (20-30 minutes) of additional grilling to reach 140.

IMG_5952

Pork chop after cooking to internal temperature of 140.

So, how did Alton’s stuffed pork chops taste? These were the best pork chops I had ever had. The pork was tender and moist, and just slightly pink in the middle, and you could taste the seasoning from the brine. The filling was a delicious accompaniment, with tartness from the cherries, sweetness from the raisins, occasional bursts of sage, and crunch from the walnuts.

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Pocket of filling inside pork chop.

This is a must-do recipe, especially if you are a pork fan. I guess I need to call my mom to tell her I finally met a pork chop I liked.

P.S. A bonus tip from Alton:  If you ever need to know how much propane you have in your tank, you can check the level by pouring ~a cup of boiling water down the side of your propane tank. You can tell where the propane level is by feeling where the metal switches from hot to cold.

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