Italian plums pair perfectly with grilled pork chops
Brine a few pork chops, season with tarragon and garlic, and grill them up with Italian plums for a smokey, seasonal taste of late summer.
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Grilled Pork Chops and Italian Plums
Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.
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2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 generous tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dry)
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine (see Kitchen Notes for substitutions)
4 bone-in pork chops, about 3/4 to 1 inch thick (about 1/2 pound each)
freshly ground black pepper
12 Italian prune plums
Brine the chops. Combine salt, brown sugar, tarragon and garlic in a saucepan or heatproof bowl. Add one cup of boiling water. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Let sit for five minutes for flavors to steep. Stir in wine and one cup of iced water. Cool completely.
Place chops in a large zippered plastic bag. Add brine to bag and seal, forcing out as much air as possible. Work brine around the chops and refrigerate, occasionally turning the bag and working the brine around the chops, for at least five hours and up to 12 hours. The brine won’t keep the chops totally immersed in the bag; you can either increase the brine ingredients proportionally or turn the bag as I did.
Grill the chops and plums. Prepare your grill for direct grilling. About half an hour before you’re ready to grill, remove the chops from the fridge and let them come to room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare the plums. Rinse them and pat them dry with a clean dish towel. Halve the plums, removing the pits, and place them in a large bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil and toss gently with a wooden spoon.
When the grill is almost ready, remove the chops from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Multiple paper towels. They will have taken on a lot of moisture and are now ready to exude it. Season generously with ground black pepper. Oil the grill grate and place chops directly over the coals. Cook uncovered for a couple of minutes and then close the grill. After five or six minutes of total cooking time for the first side, turn the chops, cover the grill and cook for another five minutes or so. By now, they will probably cooked through (a quick read thermometer should register 145 degrees F). Mine were still a little blond looking, so I turned them and cooked them for another minute. Don’t overcook them, though – it’s not needed, and you’ll undo all the juiciness you brined into them.
Transfer to a large plate and tent with foil (kind of stack them – they lose less heat as they rest). Give the plums another gentle stir to coat with oil, then place them on the grill cut side down. Let them grill for 2 to 3 minutes, then start turning them, using tongs and a spatula. If they haven’t taken on grill marks yet, let them cook another minute or so. They won’t all take on those beautiful grill marks, despite your best efforts. Move on. After you turn them, they only need to cook for a minute more. Transfer to a plate. The skins will want to slip off them; try to keep most of the skins with their original owners.
Transfer the chops to a serving platter. Arrange the plums around them, gently pushing skins back into place as needed. Serve.
Experiment. Play with the aromatics, trying different herbs or adding onions. Substitute apple cider or a little vinegar for the wine. Just keep the salt and sugar in balance. You’ll find lots of helpful brining basics and some additional recipe ideas here at About.com.
Related post on Blue Kitchen: Plum cake
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