One technique that should be in every cook's repertoire is Brining. Nothing helps to add flavor, moisture and tenderness like a salty bath. While there are certainly a lot of recipes and ratios for brining, there is no steadfast set-in-stone combination, so try what you like and adjust accordingly. Few proteins respond as well to brining or result quite as nicely as Pork. One taste of the delicious results and you'll seldom cook swine without some time in a brine.
Beer-Brined Pork Chops with Yellow Tomato Marmalade, Herbed Gnocchi Romana and Wild Mushroom Succotash
(Recipe serves 2-3)
For the Brine:
1 cup Beer (I used Paulaner Hefeweizen, use whatever you'd like)
1/2 cup Water
1/4 cup Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Cane Sugar
Combine all and whisk to dissolve.
(Using a room-temperature beer is advised, the salt/sugar will dissolve quicker.)
2 Center-Cut Pork Chops (Niman Ranch beauties)
Brine anywhere from 30 minutes up to 4 hours. (The thicker the chops, the longer you can leave them in.)
When you're ready to cook, remove the chops from the brine, and give them a rinse.
Pat dry with paper towels.
Let rest (refrigerated) for 30 minutes to an hour. This allows for even distribution of the brine flavors.
Score the fat (if your chops have fat on the edges) to prevent them from curling while they cook.
Season with salt (less than your normal amount) and pepper.
In a hot skillet lightly coated with oil, sear chops on both sides until golden brown. (Save the skillet for the Succotash.)
Finish chops in a 350F oven. (I prefer mine medium, avoid the common mistake of over-cooking pork, it'll be much more delicious.)
(Note: Meat that has been brined will maintain a pink-ish hue even when cooked through.)
Rest and serve.
For the Gnocchi Romana:
1/4 cup Semolina (easy to find, near the flour, etc.)
3/4 cup Chicken Stock
1/4 cup Milk
1 Egg Yolk
2 oz. grated Parmiggiano
1 oz. chopped Herbs (I used a combination of Parsely, Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary)
Bring stock and milk to a boil.
Add Semolina, lower heat and cook, stirring until thickened.
Off of the heat, add cheese and herbs.
Season to taste.
Stir in the egg yolk.
Add the dough to butter/oiled muffin tins, cover with plastic wrap and press into shape.
Refrigerate about an hour (or until you're ready to cook.)
Remove from the tins and place on an oiled tray.
Top each with a a pat of butter and some grated Parmiggiano.
Bake at 350F until browned and heated through (about 15-20 minutes.)
Finish under the broiler for some color.
For the Marmalade:
1 cup Yellow Pear Tomatoes
3/4 cup Cane Sugar
1 Meyer Lemon, zested and juiced
1 tsp. Salt
4 sprigs, Lemon Thyme
Combine all ingredients in a saucepot and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Simmer until desired consistency, breaking up tomatoes a bit with a spoon.
For the Succotash:
4 King Trumpet Mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 cup Brown Beech Mushrooms (separated)
1/4 White Onion, diced
1/4 cup Corn
Wash mushrooms thoroughly and dry.
Heat skillet (preferably the skillet you used to sear the chops.)
Add additional oil (if necessary.)
Add onions, and toss to color.
Add mushrooms and toss.
When mushrooms release their liquid (listen to the pan!) add corn.
Season to taste.
Plate and Enjoy!