Friday, October 28, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Grilled Pork Chops

This meal has been floating in my mind's eye for a while now. To see it finally come together, it was really a sense of accomplishment. This picture just does not do it justice. The colors were beautiful. The flavors really complimented each other, some sweet, some tangy, some savory. Excellent combination!

Back in the early summer, I was on a grilling kick. I think it's a seasonal thing for me.  I wanted a grilled pork chop, but it's easy to go wrong on the grill. Sometimes it's hard to judge how hot to get the grill, how long to let the meat cook, and if you've hit it right or ruined it.

The first time I made this, I tried two layers of bacon and basting the chops with apple juice. So it was OK. Just OK. As you know, for me just OK is never good enough.

So back to the kitchen and lots of brainstorming and testing. I figured brining was the next logical step. I wanted a warm apple topping. Then, this came together. It was really good. I think I just had to wait for the right seasonal ingredients to make it really work.

The meal itself consists of a bed of Barley Pilaf, then the grilled pork chop. Top it with some warm Cranberry Apple Chutney, and a slice of Acorn Squash on the side. We also had French bread and butter because it's not really a good dinner unless there is bread.

1 cup apple juice
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
4 boneless pork loin steaks, each about 1 1/2 inches thick, roughly 2 lbs. total weight
4 slices applewood-smoked bacon
black pepper

1. Combine the apple juice,water and salt in a plastic bag or food storage container big enough to hold the pork. Stir until the salt has dissolved. Add the pork. Make sure the chops are submerged in the brine.  Refrigerate about 2-4 hours. Don't let this go too long or the pork will get way too salty.

2. Remove pork chops from brine. Rinse off with cool water and pat dry.

2. Wrap each chop with a slice of bacon, securing with a toothpick.  If your meat is a bit oblong, just smoosh it into a circle. The bacon will help it stay round. Season both sides with freshly ground black pepper.

3. Grill pork steaks over medium heat, turning every five minutes. You will cook for a total of 20 minutes. If you want your bacon a bit more crispy, use tongs to hold them on edge over the flame.  This also imparts smoky goodness to the flavor.

4. Carefully remove the toothpicks. You don't want the bacon to fall off. Serve with pilaf, squash, and chutney as described above. Yum!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cranberry Apple Chutney

Well, this little gem of a recipe is going to become one of my new Thanksgiving additions. Instead of just regular cranberry jelly, and Cran-Raspberry Mousse, I can add chutney to the table.

It was nice to have the sweet, tangy, spicy and nutty flavors all together. This went especially well on top the Acorn Squash. Just saying if you want to avoid adding butter and sugar to your squash, give this a try. It's also really pretty together. The colors were attractive, the soft orange of the squash, the creamy apples, the little red jewel cranberries.

To make this, it's super easy. If you have ever cooked apple pie filling before putting it in the pie, this is technically the same.

I used three types of apples. Eric helped pick them at the store. He chose one green (Granny Smith), one red (Red Delicious), and one in between (Fuji). Honestly, I liked the combination. Some pieces were tangy, some were really soft and sweet. I think the variety was an unexpected positive thing.

Thanks kiddo, you're my best helper! (Can you tell I'm a proud mama?)

2 Tablespoons finely minced yellow onion
2 Tablespoons butter
3 apples, peeled, cored, diced
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger root
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons minced pecans

1. Saute onion in butter about 3 minutes. Add apples and cook over medium heat until they start to brown and soften.

2. Add all other ingredients and stir well.  Continue cooking until apples are tender and reduced, about 10 minutes. If you have other things cooking, you can let this one sit on a back burner on low. Stir occasionally so they don't get too cooked in one spot.

3. Serve warm or cold, great for pork, turkey, or chicken.  Store covered in the fridge, it should be good up to a week.