Posts Tagged ‘pig’

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.

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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.

I love pig, so I was excited for the 46th episode of Good Eats. I think of ham as something to be consumed for special occasions or holidays. When your husband has cancer, you begin to view every day as a special occasion. So, a random August day seemed like the perfect occasion to prepare a ham.

Country Ham

I love country hams. For several past holidays, my parents have ordered Waco hams. I relish their dry texture and excessive saltiness, leaving me with rings that fit too tightly on my water-retaining fingers. In the episode, Alton is able to easily find a country ham at his local grocery store, but this was not the case for me. A country ham, by the way, is a ham that is dry cured and hung to age. We ended up finding a smoked ham at a local butcher shop, which is not exactly the same thing as a country ham, but it was the best we could do.

My smoked ham.

My smoked ham.

To make Alton’s country ham, you’ll need to prepare a couple of days in advance. To start, if your ham has a hock, you will want to cut it off. My ham did not have a hock. Stick your ham in a cooler, preferably with a drain, and submerge the ham in water. Your ham will soak for two days, and you will want to change the water twice each day.The purpose of the soak is to pull some of the salt out of the ham. I added some ice to my cooler since we had warm weather.

Soaking the ham in a cooler.

Soaking the ham in a cooler.

Once your two-day soak is done, stick your ham in a disposable roasting pan on a baking sheet. Fill the roasting pan with Dr. Pepper until the liquid comes 1/2 to 2/3 up the side of the pan. Alton said this would only require 3-4 cans of Dr. Pepper, but I needed five 16-ounce bottles to fill my pan.

Dr. Pepper.

Dr. Pepper.

Roasting pan filled 1/2 to 2/3 full with Dr. Pepper.

Roasting pan filled 1/2 to 2/3 full with Dr. Pepper.

In addition, add some sweet pickle juice to the pan; the online recipe calls for 1 cup, but Alton doesn’t measure the juice in the episode.

Sweet pickle juice.

Sweet pickle juice.

Tent the ham with a large piece of foil (two pieces crimped together), and place the ham in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Into the oven

Into the oven

After 30 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees for 1.5 hours. When the 1.5 hours are up, pull the ham out and flip it over.

Ham pulled out after cooking for 2 hours. Flipped over in the liquid.

Ham pulled out after cooking for 2 hours. Flipped over in the liquid.

Cover the ham again with the foil, insert a probe thermometer, and wait for the ham to reach 140 degrees. My 15-pound ham took about 5 hours to cook. Let the ham rest for a half hour before slicing with an electric knife.

Ham after reaching 140 degrees.

Ham after reaching 140 degrees.

Hounds go nuts for ham.

Hounds go nuts for ham.

The day I cooked the ham, we opted to have ham sandwiches for dinner. The ham was fairly moist and tender. I think it would have been considerably drier in texture if I had used a true country ham. Though the ham had a faint sweetness to it, I would never have guessed that it cooked in Dr. Pepper and sweet pickle juice. My smoked ham was slightly salty before cooking, but I would be curious to see how a super salty country ham would turn out with this preparation. Regardless, this ham was super easy to cook and turned out flawlessly. It was definitely “good eats.” This would be a super easy way to cook a nice holiday meal. After slicing all of the ham, we vacuum sealed it and froze it for later eating.

Country ham sandwich.

Country ham sandwich.

City Ham

A couple of weeks after making the country ham, it was time to make Alton’s city ham. A city ham is partially cured in a brine and cooked to at least 137 degrees. Most hams that you see in the grocery store are city hams. When buying a city ham, choose a bone-in ham that is the shank end, rather than the rump end. Ideally, you also want to choose a ham that says it is in “natural juices,” rather than saying it has “water added.” I purchased an 11 pound ham. When ready to cook your ham, line a roasting pan with an old kitchen towel, and place your ham on top, cut side down.

My city ham, on an old towel in the roasting pan.

My city ham, on an old towel in the roasting pan.

Using a utility knife on the 2nd click, score the ham diagonally from the bottom to the top, all the way around. Then, turning the ham in the opposite direction, score the ham again, forming a diamond pattern all over the outside of the ham.

Ham skin scored in a diamond pattern, and probe thermometer inserted.

Ham skin scored in a diamond pattern, and probe thermometer inserted.

Insert a probe thermometer, tent the ham with foil, and cook the ham at 250 degrees until the thermometer reaches 130 degrees. My ham took 3.5 hours to reach 130 degrees.

Starting temperature of 38 degrees, and goal temperature of 130 degrees.

Starting temperature of 38 degrees, and goal temperature of 130 degrees.

Pull the pan from the oven and use tongs to pull the diamonds of skin off of the outside of the ham. I had to use a paring knife to cut some of the skin off.

Ham after cooking to 130 degrees.

Ham after cooking to 130 degrees.

Ham after pulling diamonds of skin off.

Ham after pulling diamonds of skin off.

Ingredients for Alton's ham crust:  mustard, gingersnaps, bourbon, and dark brown sugar.

Ingredients for Alton’s ham crust: mustard, gingersnaps, bourbon, and dark brown sugar.

Once the skin is all removed, paint a generous layer of mustard (Alton used Gulden’s in the episode) all over the ham.

Mustard brushed all over ham.

Mustard brushed all over ham.

Next, sprinkle/pat dark brown sugar on top of the mustard.

Brown sugar sprinkled on mustard.

Brown sugar sprinkled on mustard.

Spritz the ham all over with some bourbon, and finally sprinkle a thick layer of pulverized gingersnap cookies on top of the bourbon.

Topped with a spritz of bourbon.

Topped with a spritz of bourbon.

A thick crust of pulverized gingersnaps.

A thick crust of pulverized gingersnaps.

Stick the ham, uncovered, back in the oven (now at 350 degrees), and wait for the probe thermometer to reach 140 degrees. My ham’s temperature had risen to 140 degrees while I made the coating, so I opted to just put the ham back in the oven for an hour, as Alton had said his ham took about an hour. Let your ham rest for about a half hour before slicing with an electric knife.

Ham cooked to 140 degrees, rested, and ready to slice.

Ham cooked to 140 degrees, rested, and ready to slice.

We had my parents over for dinner when I made the ham, serving it sliced, and with asparagus and sourdough bread.

Sliced city ham.

Sliced city ham.

We also had a wonderful 2004 Woodward Canyon Cabernet with our ham. Everyone thought this ham was just amazing. While we liked the country ham, we thought Alton’s city ham was phenomenal. The ham was moist and perfectly cooked, and the crust was a perfect combination of sweetness and tang. I will absolutely make this ham again. This one is a sure winner. Don’t miss this one!