Sicilian Pork Chops

Grilling lean meats was always a problem for me, they were so dry by the time the carcasses was cooked! However, since I’ve been using a brine for lean meats…I rarely have that problem anymore.

Lean meats include; beef and pork tenderloin, pork loin, sirloin steaks, boneless skinless chicken breasts, etc. Generally, you don’t brine red meat since it can be consumed at a lower temp than pork or chicken.

Here is another tip, buy extra thick cuts, at least 1” and up to 1 ½”. Large cuts keep the juices in, I noticed a difference in moistness for beef, pork and chicken. A thinly cut piece of meat will dry out.

Recently, I got myself some extra thick pork chops because I saw these 2 fist size chops had the potential to be very tasty. While reading a magazine, I saw a fantastic dish. There was no recipe, but I knew that these pork chops would look amazing, more importantly, taste amazing too. But first I fixed a brine.

Essentials:

  • 2 – 1 inch thick pork chops
  • Canola Oil Spray
  • Salt & Pepper

Brine:

  • 8 cups ice cold water
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2tbsp unsulfured molasses
  • 1tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1tbsp dried thyme leaves

Brine Instructions:

  1. Turn on stove to medium-high heat.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups of water with the salt and sugar, start heating the brine.
  3. Stir continuously until the sugar and salt is dissolved. Take the brine off heat and let it cool.
  4. Pour the rest of the ingredients into a large container that has a lid.
  5. Add the brine to the large container and mix well.
  6. Add the pork chops to the brine and place in the refrigerator over night.

At this point, I came up with a simple list of ingredients for the pork chops. Not only do I keep a lot of Mexican spices and herbs on hand, but I love Italian food too. There is no shortage of Italian ingredients at my house either.

Sicilian Breadcrumbs:

  • 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp dry Pesto seasoning
  • 2 tbsp grated pecorino Romano cheese

Breadcrumb Instructions:

1. Combine in food processor and mix well.

Garnish:

  • 1 Roma tomato
  • 1 tsp grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • Chopped Italian parsley
  • Cracked black peppercorn

Typically, this dish is pan fried. I thought about cooking on my cast iron skillet, but decided against it because I want a little smoke on my chop. It’s challenging too, I have yet to successfully grill any breaded food. But I have a plan…

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Prepare the grill with the 2-zone setup at 350 degrees.
  2. Remove the chops from the brine, rinse and dry the chops.
  3. Salt and pepper the pork chops.
  4. Coat pork chops with the bread crumbs mix.
  5. Place chops directly over the heat on an elevated wire rack.
  6. Cook with the lid on until both sides show a light char. (Approx. 4 minutes on each side)
  7. Internal temp 140, if under…indirect cook on grill and cover lid
  8. Serve on plate of pasta.
  9. Garnish with grilled tomato slices, more cheese, parsley and fresh cracked pepper.

A patch of breadcrumbs may stick to the wire rack, not a big deal, but it ruins an excellent photo opportunity. The wire rack sits on top of the grill grate and I use it to protect the breading from the intense flames. The rack worked well, especially with a good coat of cooking spray.

When the color looked good I took the chops off the heat and placed them on the cool side of the grill. I probed the meat with my Thermopen and registered 147 degrees. That’s a tad higher than I wanted, but the brine should keep it moist.

Note: A side effect of brining causes food to cook faster. So if you brine a turkey, expect it to be done sooner. Moreover, keep an eye on the smaller meats or you may risk over cooking them, don’t leave your meat behind.

Once the pork chops were removed from the grill to rest, I grilled up some sliced Roma tomatoes. This is where my lack of originality or skills as a cook is prevalent. I was resolute on making an authentic tomato sauce because I was inspired by a Sicilian steak photo in a local foodie magazine that had a killer tomato sauce. After searching for a good tomato sauce in my cook books and on the web, I gave up. However, I was pleased with my grilled tomato idea. It worked because it was delicious.

My wife made some tasty pasta to go along with my Sicilian chop. The smooth, creamy whole wheat noodles and breaded, crunchy texture of the chop complimented each other very well and it looked glorious!

The first slice of pork chop revealed a moist interior. Taking the first bite gave a hint of sweetness from the molasses and some rich saltiness, noticeably from the pecorino cheese. Absolutely no complaints from me, it was well executed. Then I took a bite with the combination of grilled tomato/chop/pasta…delicioso.

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