Monday, June 8, 2015

Smoked Pork Chops with Stone Fruit Salsa



Pork and smoke have a long history of being paired together, with a near-religious zeal heaped onto bacon in American food world today.  While bacon deserves the attention, there is much more to pork and smoke than bacon.  This post is going to focus on another stellar example of smoke and porcine bonding: smoked chops.
I always feel reassured knowing I have a package or smoked pork chops in the freezer.  They’re a wonderfully satisfying centerpiece to a meal and are very quick to prepare.  The smoked chops are already infused with a wonderful campfire aroma and flavor, so they don’t take a lot of dressing up to produce big flavors on the plate.  Plus, being pasture-raised Berkshire hogs from North Woods Ranch, the meat has a wonderful flavor before it even hits the smoker.
Smoked Pork Chop from North Woods Ranch
The Beast!
As the photos show, this was a giant chop from a very large pig!  One of these large chops was more than enough for both my wife and I, so I just cooked one for our dinner.  Originally I planned to grill the chop outside, but an early summer storm altered that plan.  Instead, I used a cast iron grill pan on our stove top to add a nice char and appetizing look.

While the pork chop cooked in the pan, I brought a pot of water to boil and blanched a bundle of broccoli rabe.  I love pairing slightly bitter vegetables with rich cuts of pork, as the fat from the pork mellows out the bitterness of the greens.  A monster-sized chop like this needs a vegetable that can stand up to the rich, smoky, porky flavor, so broccoli rabe was a perfect fit for this dish.
To top it off, I made a quick fruit salsa with peaches, plums, and a touch of jalapeno.  Stone fruits are starting to come in strong here, but this would also be great in August with heirloom tomatoes.  Piled on top, the salsa added sweetness, a bit of acidity, and a very bright freshness to the entire dish.  As a whole, I really loved this dish: super savory, smoky pork combined with an earthy from the rabe and topped off a sweet and crisp salsa that also delivered a bit of heat. 

Recipe at a Glance:
1 Enormous Pork Chop, or two “Regular” ones
1 bunch Broccoli Rabe
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
3-4  Plums, Apricots, Peaches, or Nectarines (whatever looks best and delicious
1 small Jalapeno or 1/2 of a larger Jalapeno
1 Scallion
1 Lime
1/4 cup diced red onion
A little chopped cilantro

Preheat a grill pan to medium high.  While the pan heats, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

To make the salsa, cut all the stone fruits in half and remove the pit.  Chop the fruit into a chunky dice, so you can get a mix of the different fruits in one bite.  Zest and juice the lime and add to the salsa.  Remove the seeds from the jalapeno and mince.  Add the jalapeno, diced onion, and a little chopped cilantro to taste.

Grease the grill lightly, then lay the pork chop(s) on the grill.  Cook 3-4 minutes per side until grill marked, then rotate the chop to create a cross-hatch appearance from the grill.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes per side, or until chop is heated through.

When the water comes to a boil, add the broccoli rabe and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Remove the broccoli and rinse under cold water to blanch the broccoli and keep its vibrant green color.  Remove the pork chop from the grill pan and let rest on a serving plate.  Toss the broccoli rabe onto the grill pan to rewarm it from the blanching, as well as to dress the vegetable with the rendered fat from the chop.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes (if desired)

Serve with the salsa spooned over the chop.