Monday, March 11, 2013
Brined pork chops seared in coconut oil
Pork has a reputation as an 'unclean' meat. Even if you don't belong to a culture or religion that has a pork taboo, you've probably seen Pulp Fiction.
I wasn't raised to shun pork--before I started counting calories around the age of nine or so, some of my favorite savory foods included pepperoni, salami, bacon, sausages, and hot dogs. Even olive loaf, which is a meat I find terrifying even to gaze at today. But not pork chops, which tasted tough and dry.
Not unclean though. Truth be told, not only do I hate the word 'unclean' in the religious sense I also hate cleaning in the secular sense. As far back as I can remember, my life was governed by the regime of Clean. I remember waking up to the smell of ammonia and soap every morning; when my father was away, my mother would always clean the yard of leaves, and she cleaned my asthmatic grandmother's house as well.
After the divorce her standards got a bit more slack--cleaning the grout with a toothbrush every few weeks or so rather than ever time she saw a speck of dirt, for example. But my father's house, don't get me started. Despite having a housekeeper and a gardener, my stepmother is still always cleaning...the house literally looks like a hotel or a showroom, complete with a 'no glasses on the table without coasters' rule and even my hoarder father's automotive chemicals that date back to the 1970s are perfectly organized, alphabetized, and dusted.
The cleaning seems to be genetic. My aunt and uncle's house also has that 'never been lived in' aesthetic and one of the toasts at my cousin's bridal shower was to the fact that she never, never leaves a coffee cup unwashed in the sink every morning.
I am the black sheep of the cleaning family. Some days I don't bother to wash my coffee cup, since I'm the only person who uses it! Truth be told, I must have some broken cleaning DNA, because people who save piles of magazines and leave papers around make me twitchy. I like things to be semi-organized. But I still don't know how the hell you're supposed to clean under the refrigerator properly.
To be completely 'clean' and honest, when I hear about people who spend 2-3 hours cleaning their houses everyday, my first thought isn't 'how admirable,' but 'wow, they need a hobby.' And the feminist in me sees evidence of patriarchal tyranny in the ideal that a woman can't work because someone has to be in the house, cleaning all day or else Terrible Things Will Happen.
So the uncleanliness of pork really shouldn't bother me and I decided to give it another try.
I've been reducing the sugar I consume, at least in meals, so I didn't want to fry up bacon, but there didn't seem to be anything wrong with getting some organic pork chops. By nature, I'm not a briner of chicken (I'm a crispy skin girl,not a juicy breast meat girl), but with pork I did go for an easy salt brine. It really did make a difference--these chops were nothing like the 'chew forever like a piece of gum' pork of my youth. Since I am new to cooking pork, I cooked these very simply, but next time I might add some aromatics to the brine and use a spice rub for the pork.
Super-easy brined pork chops seared in coconut oil
2 cups water
2 tablespoons salt (I used sea salt)
2 boneless pork chops (approximately 4-6 ounces)
Mix salt and water. Marinate chops for 1/2 hour to 2 hours before cooking in a dish of the brine, turning if necessary
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 boneless, marinated pork chops
1. Preheat oven to 425F
2. Melt coconut oil on medium heat. Do not use extra virgin olive oil. Sear chops equally on both sides, approximately 2-3 minutes each, until browned.
3. Bake in oven-safe pan or skillet for approximately 15-20 minutes. Safety guidelines suggest cooking until at least 160F, and letting rest until the internal temperature climbs to 165F. That is what I did, but if you want to live dangerously and feel confident about the source of your pork, you can cook it to 150F and let the internal temperature rise to 155F.
N.B.: I am a ridiculously low-tech cook, but with pork, in my humble opinion, a meat thermometer is a must!