Bon Appétit (August 2014)
Dish. Of. The. Summer.
There. We said it.
It's not too often that we rave about a recipe. Sure, we recommend something enthusiastically, suggest how you might tweak things that underwhelm, and steer you away when we find one that goes bust. But hearty and emphatic raves are somewhat rare around The Bitten Word.
Not today. After we had whipped up a batch of Pickled Watermelon Rind, we decided to go ahead and made the dish Bon Appétit suggests using it in: Vietnamese Pork Chops with Pickled Watermelon.
One bite and we couldn't stop ooh-ing, aah-ing and OMG-ing.
Why is this dish so good?
It's not due to one single component. Rather, it's the combination of each of the individual pieces that makes this absolutely phenomenal.
First, there's the aforementioned Pickled Watermelon Rind. We'll spare you more swooning there, since we've already gone bananas over these pickles. Suffice it to say, they're delicious.
Then, there's the pork chop itself, marinated in a potent mix of soy sauce, fish sauce and Sriracha. After a few minutes on the grill, the chops come off smoky, spicy and sharp. Fresh watermelon cools things off and adds a punch of sweet. Peppery arugula, dressed lightly in vinegar and soy sauce, adds its own bite. Topped off with crispy, crunchy fried shallot rings, it's a masterpiece.
All these components add up to amazing little bites as you make your way through the dish. Sometimes the dish is spicy, sometimes sweet, a bit salty here and there, always sharp. It's unusual and comforting at the same time.
It's not a quick affair (the watermelon rind pickles alone take 12 hours to marinate) but it's also not complicated. And it's easy to do ahead of time: We made the pickles and marinade on Sunday night, tossed the pork in the marinade on Monday morning, and grilled the chops and tossed everything together Monday night. Easy peasy.
Seriously, make this dish now. You won't be sorry.
And remember, you heard it here: Dish. Of. The. Summer.
2 small shallots, thinly sliced into rings
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoons Sriracha
4 1"-thick bone-in pork chops (about 2 ½ lb. total)
6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups trimmed purslane or arugula
½ pound seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into pieces, thinly sliced
½ cup Pickled Watermelon Rind (click for recipe), thinly sliced
Whisk shallots, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and Sriracha in a shallow baking dish. Add pork chops and turn to coat. Cover and chill, turning occasionally, at least 1 hour.
Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Remove pork chops from marinade, scraping off excess, and grill until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
DO AHEAD: Pork chops can be marinated 12 hours ahead. Keep chilled.
Heat 4 Tbsp. oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain; season with salt.
Whisk vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add purslane, watermelon, and Pickled Watermelon Rind; season with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat.
Serve pork chops with watermelon salad topped with fried shallots.