Rocky Durham said in a cooking class we took with him back in Santa Fe, if you put grilled in front of just about anything, people will buy it. Seeing as this Santa Fean chef launched a series of successful restaurants, all called Santa Fe with exactly this premise in mind, let’s give it a try. Salad. Grilled salad. Watermelon. Grilled watermelon. Pizza. Grilled pizza. Springer spaniel. Grilled springer spaniel. Well, you get the idea.
When it comes to cooking, you have basically three options – wet heat, dry heat, or no heat. Of those, Rocky theorized, the most desirable is always dry heat. Now I wouldn’t necessarily agree, but this was Santa Fe. The weather is always dry. In summer, the temperature soars up into heights that surely make the inhabitants feel like drippings on the underbelly of a good piece of pork, sizzling on a grill. And of course, in Santa Fe, if it had grilled in the title or Rocky was cooking it, I would most certainly sign up.
I also will agree that grilling during twilight, with a cool breeze blowing, is one of the most satisfying ways to wind down a summer day. In my book, if you like something but you know you shouldn’t have it often, make sure to honor and savor those meals when you do. So while I don’t eat pork often, add grilled in front of a good pork chop on a breezy summer night in July and I’m there. I suggest you get there this weekend.
This recipe is dead simple. I wanted to use the same ingredients for the brine as with the marinade, so they went in whole into the brine and roasted and ground into the marinade. This helps to keep things simple to do but with a complex flavor. The brine helped juicify our cuts into incredibly tender chops. The garlic, rosemary and spices grounded the flavor, and the smokiness, well, all humans swoon when we encounter that essence of flame. And the onions helped bring out that bit of sweetness. Since there’s never a good reason to waste a good flame, we grilled some market zucchini and summer squash alongside. I paired it in simple Italian style – garlic, basil, balsamic, and oil. So how bout it, eh? Grilled pork chops w/ caramelized onions and Grilled zucchini and summer squash w/ garlic, basil, and balsamic. How can you resist?
4 cups water
4 tablespoons coarse salt
3 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons szechuan or black peppercorns, depending on heat preference
2 3/4 lb pork loin center cuts (chops), thoroughly rinsed
In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the brine solution until sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool. Place the pork in a bowl and cover with the brine. Weight down the pork with a plate, cover the bowl, and place in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours. Drain, rinse, and pat dry.
Garlic rosemary marinade
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon spice blend (fennel, coriander, and cumin)
20 grinds black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
Mix the above ingredients in a small bowl. Rub all over the pork. Heat the grill so you have an area where it’s max temp (about 500F) and another area of indirect heat at about 400F. At the max temp of your grill, sear the pork on both sides, about 1 1/2 minutes each side. Move to the 400F zone and cook covered, turning once, about 8-12 minutes, until internal temp registers 160F. Remove from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve with caramelized onions. Enjoy!
Grilled zucchini and summer squash w/ garlic, balsamic, and basil
Extra virgin olive oil
3-4 combo of zucchini and summer squash, sliced 1/2″ lengths
2 cloves garlic, minced
Handful basil leaves, washed and chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper
Smoky paprika or red pepper flakes (depending on pref)
Cover the zucchini and summer squash in olive oil. Put on the grill at 400, flipping once, until, about 5-8 minutes. Remove. Put one layer of zucchini and squash on your platter, add some of the garlic, drizzle balsamic and olive oil, and then top with a sprinkle of paprika and basil. Repeat with the remaining zucchini and squash. Let marinade for 15 minutes or so, until pork is ready.
A pat of butter
1 red onion, sliced
2 teaspoons balsamic
Melt butter in a sauce pan on medium. Once hot, add onion and cook until tender and starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Deglaze with balsamic, stir and let cook until completely soft, about 8 more minutes. Add salt and pepper and remove from heat. Plate next to pork.
Tip: Resist the urge to over stir or they won’t caramelize. If the onions are browning, the heat is too high.