Saveur (April 2010)
When D.C. was socked with snowstorms this winter, one of the saddest sights from our window was our grill, covered with a tarp and heaped high with snowdrifts. Just seeing it out there -- so neglected! so cold! so lonely! -- made us long for warm evenings grilling in the backyard.
Once spring arrived and the sunsets stretched later into the evening, we couldn't wait to dust off our poor grill for the season. So last week, when we had some friends over for dinner, we were very excited to fire up the propane. And these sweet and sour pork chops, from the cover of this month's Saveur, seemed like the perfect way to inaugurate a new grilling season!
We were excited about this sweet and sour take on pork. It's part of Saveur's April feature on Roman food that highlights a dozen or so of the city's iconic dishes. There are some foods we were familiar with, such as Cacio E Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta) and Spaghetti Alla Carbonara, but also some that were new to us, like Finochhio Con Latte Al Forno (Fennel Baked in Milk) and Puntarelle in Salsa Di Alici (Chicory in Anchovy Sauce).
But these pork chops were calling to us. Maybe they're a little on the more familiar end of the Roman spectrum, but they sounded great for a relatively easy midweek meal for friends.
The recipe calls for bone-in, Frenched pork chops. We bought bone-in chops, but weren't able to get Frenched ones. (Incidentally, we were at Trader Joe's over the weekend and noticed that they sell Frenched chops, so if you want Frenched chops but have trouble finding them at your supermarket, consider TJ's if there's one in your city.)
We were right about this being a manageable dish. The sweet and sour glaze -- a mixture of vinegar, honey, butter and rosemary -- comes together very quickly on the stovetop. Then you simply baste the chops while you grill them.
Because we were cooking with thick pork chops (ours were at least 1 1/2 inch thick), we wanted to make sure we didn't burn the outside of the meat while leaving the interior raw. So we lengthened the cooking time significantly, from 15 to 30 minutes, cooking the pork over moderate heat on a gas grill. They turned out perfectly juicy, with just the right ammout of char.
As for the taste, well, we found them a little on the bland side. Our guests raved about them -- one wrote us the next day to say he thought they were perfectly seasoned -- but the sweet and sour glaze packed the flavor-punch we were looking for. (Perhaps it was because our chops were so thick. Maybe that's a lot to ask of the glaze.)
Still, despite being a little under-seasoned, the pork chops were delicious. And we do love the idea of an agrodolce sauce on pork. (We first tried an agrodolce sauce two years ago, on salmon, and it was delicious!) The sharpness of the balsamic and the sweetness of the honey make a great complement to grilled pork.And mostly, we were just thrilled to be grilling again. As they say in Rome, viva l'griglia!
(They say that, right?)
4 10-oz. bone-in pork chops, frenched
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 sprig fresh rosemary, torn into 1" pieces
1. Put pork chops on a plate; drizzle with oil; season generously with salt and pepper; let sit for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high heat. Combine vinegar and honey in a 1-qt. saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1⁄4 cup. Stir in butter and rosemary and set aside.
3. Put pork chops on grill and cook, occasionally turning and basting with balsamic mixture, until browned and cooked through, 12–14 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.