Cooking the Book: Grilled Pork Chops and Asparagus
With bizarrely early warm (actually, hot! Well into the 80s qualifies as hot!) weather comes…. bizarrely early grilling season! Hooray!
Grilling is so quick and easy and saves you so much clean up, right? So I confess, the whole time I was prepping everything for this dinner, including three different compound butters, I kept thinking “This is awfully fussy, I hope it’s worth it.” And guess what? It is.
The pork chops were moist on the inside but slightly charred in all the right places thanks to the brown sugar and butter mixture (which admittedly fell off a little bit on the plate-to-grill transfer, but we slopped it back on) and their brief visit to the freezer. Ditto for the tips to cut two slits about two inches apart through the fat around the outside edge of each chop before cooking.
It was also a good reminder that there should be more compound butter in my life. It’s not that hard to mash some lemon zest and chives into some butter and stick it in the ‘fridge to be used at will.
I can’t see buying an entire packet of grocery store chives just for the wee bit you’ll use in this recipe, so it’s probably best that you make some more compound butter anyway. It probably wouldn’t have been a Monday night meal if the chives in the container garden hadn’t resurrected themselves weeks ago. There’s a good cooking for two tip for you: grow an herb garden; you’ll save a fortune. Now excuse me while I go plant some thyme.
The pork chops were perfect. The freezer-first technique worked like a charm and definitely needs to become a regular thing in The Kitchenette. The buttery coating was an added bonus, but I’m sure the brown sugar in the mix helped achieve the quick and flavorful char.
Cutting into the edges is also worth the couple of seconds it takes. You can see from the photos, below I cut one and not the other just to see what would happen and sure enough, the un-cut chop curled up a little, making a reservoir of butter and juices that got launched into the fire when it was flipped. Definitely cutting from now on.
The garlic flavor on the asparagus got a little lost. Maybe the minced bits fell off the asparagus stalks and into the fire, I’m not sure. That’s why I usually construct a little aluminum tray when I grill asparagus (it also keeps them from falling through the grate). But that admittedly keeps them from the direct flame, so they don’t get so delightfully blackened. Maybe the next time around instead of chopped raw garlic, I’ll mix some roasted garlic in with the butter and see how that goes.
We were wishing for some potatoes — sliced up, crispy and charred out the outside but soft in the middle, “shore lunch potatoes,” we call them — to round out the meal. A starch or maybe even just some grilled bread is definitely called for, but no one was starving at the end of the meal, either.
Grilled Pork Chops and Asparagus
from Cooking for Two, 2011
For the pork:
1 (8-ounce) bone-in rib or center cut pork chops, about 1/2 inch thick, trimmed, sides slit
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the asparagus:
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 bunch thick asparagus (about 1 pound), tough ends trimmed
salt and pepper
Pat pork dry with paper towels and rub chops evenly with salt. Place on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and freeze pork chops, uncovered, until firm, about 30 minutes (but no more than one hour).
Mix 1 Tablespoon butter, chives, mustard and lemon zest together in a small bowl and refrigerate until serving time. In a separate bowl, mix remaining 1 Tablespoon butter, sugar and pepper; set aside at room temperature. Before grilling, pat chops dry with paper towels and spread room-temperature butter mixture evenly over all sides.
Combine garlic and melted butter in a blow, then brush over asparagus. Season with salt and pepper.
For a charcoal grill: Open bottom grill vents completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (100 briquettes; 6 quarts). When colas are hot, spread two-thirds of them evenly over half of grill and remaining coals evenly over other half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, over and open lid vents completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes. For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover and heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high (adjust burners as needed to maintain hot fire and medium-hit fire on separate sides.
Place chops on hotter part of grill, cover and cook until chops are well-browned on both sides and register 140 to 145 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes, flipping chops halfway through. Meanwhile, place asparagus on cooler part of grill and cook until spotty brown and tender, 5 to 7 minutes, turning as needed.
Transfer asparagus and port to serving platter. Spoon chilled butter mixture over pork. Tent loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.