I Dig On Swine…Grilled Maple-brined Pork Chops with Sweet Corn Succotash and Hash Browns

Have I mentioned I love pork?

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Yeah, I kinda dig on swine. Especially from summer into fall. It seems to have such an affinity for summer and fall produce. Corn…peppers…caramelized onions…in bacon fat, of course. In the fall: homey braised pork and cracklins…apple cider…rosemary and garlic…root vegetables like parsnips and potatoes…sweet or otherwise. It’s such a wonderful, versatile meat. I greatly prefer pork with a little fat on it. I think some of you may have read my carnitas blog and know how much I adore pork butt. I’ve never been a huge pork loin person. Too lean…it dries out too easily. Then I discovered
brining: a method of soaking lean meats in a salt-solution that makes them moist and juicy.

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I bought some boneless pork chops at
Whole Paycheck and decided to grill them up for Sunday dinner. I thought I remembered Govind Armstrong.
doing a maple brine for pork at some point so I Googled it and this recipe popped up. It sounded interesting…but what should I serve with it? Well, I had picked up some corn and peppers from the market and had some potatoes, onions and garlic on hand……oh yeah, and an ASSLOAD of beans. (Pun intended.) Yeah, when my parents came out this past Christmas for the birth of Maggie, my mother stocked up my kitchen with a veritable plethora of beans. “Oh, it’s a great ingredient to have on hand for quick meals.” I agree….which is probably why my pantry was stocked with about 15 cans of assorted beans already. Now, well, let’s just say if the shit goes down and the world ends, this house will be very fragrant indeed.

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Anyway, so I had some fresh corn and peppers…how ‘bout
succotash? Traditionally, succotash has lima beans….hmmmm, wouldn’t you know it? That the one damn bean I don’t have….but wait….what’s this? God bless my mommy for exploring the weird little Armenian markets around here. I’ve got a can of mixed beans that has limas in it!

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Awesome. Well, naturally I have bacon on hand, which will be my fat of choice tonight…I know…big surprise. Oh, and I have my version of Emeril’s Essence: The Chachere. Really, once you have The Chachere, you’ve got magic in a little shaker, but feel free to use another seasoned salt if you have a favorite. If you want to make your own, well then, God bless your little heart. See you later. I’ll be on the floor, playing with my kid. Come get me when you’re done.

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That said: back to the pork, you should start this one day ahead of time because the pork has to brine for 12 hours. No more…preferably no less. I brined mine for exactly 12 hours like the recipe said and it was perfect. If you brine it too long, it can absorb too much salt and if you brine it less, you won’t get the full effect of the flavors, so try to time it right, bitches. You can always brine it for 12 hours and then take it out of the brine, pat it dry and refrigerate until you need it….which is what I did. Here is the recipe again for the brine, in case you guys are staring at your computer screen like a dog that’s just been shown a card trick because you don’t understand the concept of a
hyperlink:

Brine
1 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup Grade B maple syrup
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
12 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
8 cups water

4 center-cut loin pork chops, 1 1/2 inches thick
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the first 12 ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil, LET COOL, strain, add the pork chops to the solution and refrigerate. If you don’t let it cool, you’re going to cook the pork chops. It also makes for a dangerous breeding room for bacteria.

The next day, your pork chops are prepped. Give them a little grind of fresh black pepper…no salt…they’re already brined.

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Time to go start the fire. I’m using a mix of hardwood and charcoal today. You want to get that started so that it’s ready and hot for you when you’re good to grill. Take the chops out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature too. You don’t want to put them on the grill cold. Now, let’s get going on the succotash and potatoes. First, put a pot of water on the stove, season it with salt, cover and bring to a boil. You’ll need that for the potatoes. Get about 4 slices of bacon, cut them into medium dice.

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Sidenote: in cooking school, knives had a tendency to ‘go missing’. People would use colored electrical tape to identify their knives. Sooner or later, though, the tape would wear off or you would notice your neighbor had the same color tape as you. I decided to engrave my knives with my name…and then I went a step further. We would have these timed ‘knife drills’ where we would have to dice potatoes, etc. into specific sizes: “Medium dice as many potatoes as you can in 1 minute.” Well, sometimes, it was helpful to have a little guide to remind yourself what ½ inch looked like. So, I also engraved my knife with actual size dice measurements. It worked for a while until someone ratted me out and they wouldn’t let me use that knife anymore.

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So, back to the bacon: cut into ½” dice:

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And start to render the fat out. I already had a good amount of bacon fat left over from this morning’s breakfast, so I just added the bacon to that.

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Once the bacon starts to get crispy, drain it into a pyrex measuring cup leaving a little bit of the fat inside the pan. Add chopped red onion to the pan, season with salt and a little shake of The Chachere and start sautéing it. Salt brings out the liquid, so that will aid in the caramelization.

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Once it starts to caramelize, add a couple of minced garlic cloves. I add a little sprinkle of salt to the garlic when I’m chopping it because…what does salt do? It brings out the liquid….so it makes it less sticky and easier to mince.

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If, at any point, the onion/garlic mixture starts to burn or look too dry, add some broth or water to loosen it up. I like broth because why not add flavor whenever you can? That’s how you build flavors.

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While the onions and garlic are sautéing, chop up some bell pepper. I’m using one of each: red, yellow and green.

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Add the chopped bell pepper to the mixture and hit it with The Chachere…not too much, you just want to season as you go to build the flavors. Taste throughout the cooking because you don’t want it to get too salty.

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Start sautéing this mixture to bring those sugars out!

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In the meantime, while that is on the stove, we need to get that corn off the cob. I’ve got a little trick for that. It’s a little gimmicky, but it works so well, I’m going to share it with you. If the corn you are using has husks on it, remove those.

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Got a Bundt pan lying around? See, one of the hassles of cutting corn off the cob is that it makes a huge mess and flies around your kitchen. Sure, there are fancy gadgets you can buy to remove the corn from the cob. I’ve bought and tried them all. Nothing works so well as the simple Bundt pan technique:

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How’s that succotash coming? You want to get some good color on it. Not black, just nice brown colors. That’s the sugar coming out and that’s flavor.

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Add the corn in and continue to sauté:

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Go ahead and open up that can of beans, drain it and give it a rinse. I hate the viscous shit that canned beans are packed in. It skeeves me out.

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Once the succotash is nice and caramelized, add those beans in and you’re basically done. Just stir it around for about 5 more minutes to heat up the beans:

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Remove the succotash from the pan and place it into a serving container and set aside:

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On to the taters. Go ahead and peel a couple of large russet potatoes and cut them into medium dice:

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Then drop them in the pot of water that you put on the stove earlier, which should be boiling like a sumbitch right about now. Cover the pot so that it will come back to a boil quickly. We’re par-cooking the potatoes so that they will be soft on the inside before we crisp them up in the pan. You’ll want to keep checking on them every 5 minutes or so. You don’t want them soft and crumbly. You just want to be able to pierce them with a fork and encounter a little tiny bit of resistance….maybe 10 minutes or so. While they’re cooking, go ahead and medium dice 2 yellow onions, add some of that reserved bacon fat back into the pan and throw the onions in. Hit’em with a little salt and The Chachere, as always.

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While the onions are cooking, drain the potatoes into a colander and let them sit and steam dry a little bit.

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Once the onions are soft and brown, remove them from the pan, add…yes…more bacon fat….wait until it gets hot and then add the diced potatoes in a single layer. You want your pan over medium to medium high heat. (And of course, add some salt and The Chachere) to the potatoes.) Season as you go, people! And, by that I mean, lightly season each element as it goes in the pan. Salt isn’t just for flavor, it also aids in the cooking process and will bring out the flavors better if you season throughout instead of just at the end.

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Ok, we’re going to let those potatoes get crispy. You don’t want to stir the potatoes too much or they’ll fall apart. Just let them sit there a spell while they form a nice crust. Let’s go check on the fire.

Mmmm…look at that hammock. I’ve got a date with that hammock later. Mark my words.

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Ok, the fire….looks like it’s ready. I’m going to add a smoke packet. (For directions on the smoke packet, see my Ribs blog. Just for shits and giggles, let’s use hickory today. I’m feeling CRAZY.

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Now, like the recipe says, I’ve got the coals built up a little more in the back than in the front, so I can sear it on the hot part of the grill and then move it over to the slightly cooler side. I’m going to go ahead and put that smoke packet there on the cooler side because that’s where the meat is going to be the longest.
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Let’s go run in and get those pork chops and check on the potatoes. Yep, they’re coming along, give them a careful stir, trying not to crumble them up too much, so that they can get brown and crispy all over.

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Now, as soon as that wood chip packet starts smoking you can place the pork chops on the hotter part of the grill.

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Now, the recipe says to grill on the hottest part of the grill for 1-1/2 minutes on each side. I don’t think that’s really long enough to get good grill marks. Maybe my grill isn’t as hot as theirs. I just seared them for about 4 minutes on the hotter part of the grill, turned them ¼ turn (on the same side for nice cross hatch marks) and seared them another 4 minutes, closing the lid each time between turns to capture the smoke. Then, after 8 minutes, I turned them over, seared them on the other side for 4 minutes and then moved them over to the cooler side of the grill and cooked for about 4 more minutes with the lid closed for a total of about 16 minutes. It really depends on the thickness of your chops but with an instant-read thermometer, you want the internal temp to be about 135-140 degrees. Carry-over cooking will cook it further to about 150 degrees. I like my pork cooked medium to medium well. People are needlessly afraid of doing that because they’re scared of getting
trichinosis, which is so rare these days. You’re much more likely to get
e-coli from a rare hamburger or salmonella from chicken or something.

Now, let’s pull the pork chops off the grill and let them rest for about 10 minutes or so. This will let the juices redistribute themselves through the meat. We’ll go back in and add the caramelized onions back into the potatoes and brown them for a little longer, while we’re waiting on the pork.

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Mmmmm…crispy, bacony goodness:

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Ok, ready to serve. Now, I know some of you won’t agree with this but I’m going to slice these pork chops thinly against the grain because I intend to use the leftovers in sandwiches anyway and there is something irritating about a giant hunk of pork chop in the middle of the plate. Since it is such a lean meat, I don’t like to sit there and cut a chunk of lean pork and chaw on it. It’s much more delicate, somehow, to eat a nice, thin, tender slice:

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And there you have it, a big ole mess of pork, succotash and taters. Yeah, the taters are under there somewhere.

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Who’s hungry?

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Taste it all first to make sure everything is seasoned right:

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Damn…that’s good.

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GAWD, I’m stuffed…and sleepy. Now, where’s that hammock?

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One Response to “I Dig On Swine…Grilled Maple-brined Pork Chops with Sweet Corn Succotash and Hash Browns”

  1. Sarah Jane Says:

    What a great way to cut the corn 😀
    Dang, this blog is kinda old. Do more!

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