Tag Archives: pork

Curry Favor and Bury Flavor with Brine

26 Jul

I never liked pork chops much growing up. All-too-often overcooked to within an inch of their lives, I couldn’t understand why my parents loved them so much. But flash forward to present day and you’ll know that I adore all things pig, including the humble chop. Why the change of heart? What if I told you a simple bath in salty water and a gentle hand with a hot pan was all that stood between you and the juiciest pork chop you ever ate? Would that be something you might be interested in?

Brining, or the simple process of marinating a food in a salty liquid solution, is perhaps the simplest, most fool-proof means of keeping even the leanest cuts of meat flavorful and juicy, provided you don’t overcook them. The science is a little dense, but the gist is that the high salt content of the brine serves to alter the chemistry of the cells in the meat to the point where they want to hold onto as much moisture as possible. This makes for good eating.

The brine can also act, as any marinade does, to saturate the target with intense flavors impossible by simple surface seasoning. Toss in any spices you would normally use as a rub and watch those flavors penetrate every corner of your meat.

The second key to succulent swine is to take it easy with the heat.  The practice of using uncooked scrap meat as animal feed, coupled with lax meat-handling conditions from farm to table in years past lead to outbreaks of trichinosis, a pig parasite that causes intestinal maladies in most and severe reactions and even death in an unlucky few. While undercooked meat is nothing to joke around about, pork can take on a sear just like a quality steak and a little pink in the middle isn’t a bad thing. Buy fresh or keep frozen and out of the Danger Zone of 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit and most meat should be safe to sear. (Editor’s Note: Buying from a farm you trust can also help alleviate concerns.)

Brined pork chops have become one of my favorite cool-weather comfort foods, paired with braised root vegetables or earthy risottos, they make for comfort food of epic proportions.  A recent curry craving had me wondering how the bright flavors of the East might make for a more season-appropriate application of a Fall/Winter stand-by. A quick couscous salad later and I had my answer: great success!

Curry-Brined Pork Chop with Couscous Salad

Ingredient Rundown:

  • bone-in pork chops


  • water
  • ice
  • kosher salt
  • brown sugar
  • sweet curry powder
  • garam masala
  • cracked black pepper

Couscous Salad

  • Cooked couscous
  • finely chopped vegetables (I used red and green bell pepper, onion, carrot, tomato, garlic and cilantro)
  • lime juice
  • olive oil
  • white vinegar
  • curry powder
  • garam masala
  • powdered ginger
  • Sriracha or other hot chili sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

How I do it:

Add about 2 cups to a quart of water (depending on how many chops you’re brining) to small pot and heat until nearly boiling. Add a few teaspoons of salt until the water takes on a seawater-like salinity. Add sugar and remaining spices and stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Add ice until brine is cooled to room temperature.

Place pork chops in brine in a sealed storage container or zip-top bag and marinate in refrigerator for 8-24 hours. Obviously, they will take on more salt and curry flavor with longer brining. I have found that 12 hours is a safe bet for a flavorful, yet not over-salted chop.

Prepare couscous salad by cooking couscous as directed (usually by bringing twice as much water as couscous to a boil with a pinch of salt and splash of olive oil, adding couscous and removing from heat to steam for about 5 minutes, fluffing with a fork).  I added a generous dash of maharaja curry powder with the water as to permeate the couscous as it cooked.

In a mixing bowl, prepare dressing by whisking together lime juice, splash of vinegar, Sriracha, spices, salt, cilantro and olive oil. Add vegetables, stir to combine, cover, and place in refrigerator to chill. Flavor will intensify the longer it chills.

When ready to cook, remove pork chops from brine and pat off excess liquid.  Season with a rub of cracked pepper, curry and garam masala. I sprayed each side of the chops with olive oil and added them to a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Depending on thickness of chops, 3-5 minutes per side should do the trick.  Don’t be afraid of a little pink in the middle.

Plate with couscous salad and serve.


It’s so watery – and yet there’s a smack of ham to it – Baked Ham with Coffee and Brown Sugar Glaze

8 Mar

Somewhere between Christmas and Easter, I found myself with a second-hand ham taking up half of my freezer.  Sometimes a lazy Sunday is reason enough to cook 11 pounds of meat and watch some basketball (always a pleasure seeing Bruce Weber stymied by Bo and the boys).  Oh and the Oscars (The Dude wins!).  I guess today was a holiday after all.

A quick scanning of my modest cookbook library yielded an interest-piquing recipe from my Dean & DeLuca Cookbook for a poached/baked ham with a coffee and brown sugar glaze.  The severe lack of coffee and coffee-related food items in my life right now made this one a no-brainer.  Coffee and pork – together at last.

Baked Ham with Coffee and Brown Sugar Glaze

(courtesy of The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook)

Though it does sound a little unusual, the glaze in the recipe lends a lovely color and flavor to the exterior of the ham; after all, ham with red-eye gravy (made with coffee) is a Southern classic. And there’s another creative element in this dish: though this is baked ham, it spends most of its cooking time poaching in water on top of the stove. This keeps the ham very moist (it heats to the center more quickly than in a dry oven). Additionally, the water method draws out the salt in the ham, rather than concentrating it. Just make sure that you keep the water below the boiling point—say, 180° to 190°F. Also make sure, of course, that the ham you choose is the best ham you can find. Serves at least 20

Ingredient rundown:

  • 12 to 14-pound smoked, ready-to-eat Ham
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup strong black brewed coffee (some potently French-pressed Alterra Love Supreme worked quite nicely)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • (I added a teaspoon or so of molasses to the glaze as well.  You know I’m never satisfied following a recipe to the letter)

I ended up making a half recipe so I cut my 11-12 lb ham in half and halved the measurements for all of the glaze fixins.

How I did it:

  1. Place ham in a very large pot and fill with water until it covers ham. Cook over high heat on top of stove until water begins to boil. Reduce heat to low, and let ham poach for 1 1/2 hours.
  2. While the ham is cooking, prepare the glaze: Combine the brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, and black coffee in a bowl, and stir with a fork until the sugar is dissolved. Add the breadcrumbs and blend. (The glaze will become pasty.)
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Remove the ham from the pot of water and place in a large baking pan. Carve away the excess fat, and some of the rind. Spread the glaze evenly over the ham. Reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees and bake the ham for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is hot and dark brown. Allow the ham to cool for at least 15 minutes before carving.

My housemate was kind enough to put together some Hooks 3-Year Cheddar risotto (which can be made in much the same manner as my Mushroom risotto, only with the red wine swapped for white and a cup or so of grated cheddar instead of, or in addition to, the parmesan at the end)  that paired pretty damn well with the ham.  The glaze provided a nice hit of sweet/roasty/malty depth of flavor that was a welcome change of pace from your standard pineapple and clove accoutrement.  Now how long is it going to take for me to eat 10ish pounds of baked ham?  I have some ideas, don’t worry.

Hot Ham Water. Better thirst-quencher or BEST thirst-quencher?

You never forget your first: Potstickers

3 Sep

Crispy on one side, wrinkly on the other

While on an impromptu Super Target run last night, a package of wonton wrappers caught my eye and I was reminded of the Good Eats episode I saw recently based on the prodigious pasta purveyor. Potstickers are one of my favorite things in this world and to this point I had never ventured to make them myself. Thanks, Alton, for pulling back the veil of mystique on this simple dish with so many flavor possibilities.

Dish: Potstickers

Ingredient Roll Call:

  • 1 package of wonton wrappers (usually around 60 count)
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ~1/3 cup each of minced bell pepper (any color will do) and onion (green or standard)
  • ~1 tbsp each minced ginger and garlic
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • cracked pepper to taste
  • drizzle each of sriracha, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and teriyaki
  • ~1.5 cups chicken stock or water for steaming
  • Vegetable oil (enough to lightly coat pan for each batch)
  • Makes 30-40 potstickers

How I do it:

Normally I would go through my entire procedure here, but I think Alton does a great job in this excerpt from Good Eats, and frankly, I followed his instructions fairly faithfully here.   Plus, it’s always easier to replicate when you have a visualizaion to go from.  Take it away, AB.

After the first batch that stuck just a little too much, they started turning out really nicely.  They key was leaving the heat between medium and medium-high and making sure to add plenty of stock to loosen their grip on the pan and steam them through.  All in all, a successful first attempt and something I will certainly come back to with new filling ideas.

Filling before mixing

Potsticker before cooking


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