Thursday, April 28, 2011

Brined Dijon Pork Chops, Crock Pot Baked Sweet Potatoes & Baby Spinach Salad

Yeah, that title is a bit of a mouthful. (Get it?)

I love terrible puns. The worse, the better. I'm sorry you had to find out this way.

Okay, but on the serious: I find pork chops very frustrating. My dad and his partner Kathy will insist - and I am sure rightfully so - that the pork available in stores today pales in comparison to the fatty, moist, flavorful pork of their youth. They may even tell you not to bother with it at all. (If you've tried my dad's crown roast, though, you would strongly disagree). But personally, I see it as a challenge to marinate, brown, and perfectly cook (generally braise) it into a tender and moist cut of meat. So far, I wouldn't say that I have succeeded, exactly.

I've cooked a few that were pretty tasty, but none that have been outstanding, and tonight's was no exception. What was different this time, though, is that I brined the two boneless chops for over 36 hours. Still, a tiny bit dry. (What's a girl gotta do?!) I lightly browned both sides over medium-low heat in a grill pan, then covered and let them cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. The meat retained the tiniest bit of sweetness from the brine, which was great with the dijon mustard that I marinated it in post-brining. I'm only partially clear on the science behind brining, so perhaps it was the combo of salt&sugar brine and mustard that inhibited its juiciness. It was a flavorful but still slightly dry result.

I can't really explain the odd pattern of the grill-marks...
The LIFE CHANGING part of tonight's dinner is the concept of baking potatoes in a crock pot. Who knew you could do that? Not me. At least, not until I read this. I skipped the limes and rubbed the spuds with seasoned salt, cumin and garlic powder. I also forgot to stab them with a fork before wrapping them up in aluminum, but they didn't explode, so all's well that ends well. Ours cooked on high for about 7 hours, but that's just as much because of my schedule as their actual required cooking time. They may have been done at 5 hours, but if they were, they surely didn't suffer for it.

These sweet potatoes came out PERFECTLY. The skin was crispy and the flesh was buttery soft with a slightly oozy sugary goop-glaze. This might have happened differently if I had stabbed them, but I'm not totally sure. Either way, I am very happy with both the result and the process, and when the craving strikes, you too can have a fully-loaded baked potato in the middle of summer without having to evacuate your overheated kitchen. My two-quart crock pot (the "baby" to the 5-quarter) snugly held two medium-large tubers. I was surprised how subdued the cumin flavor became though. Next time I will probably try a more varied blend of spices. Naturally, I served them with a little butter.

For color and "balance," I tossed some baby spinach greens with oil and my new favorite salad vinegar, the apple cider variety. This is such a simple thing, but the three components of this meal worked so well together that I think I will make sweet potatoes and spinach salad a more frequent combination. We were pretty happy!

Quote of the Day: It is a solemn thought: Dead, the noblest man's meat is inferior to pork” ~ Mark Twain

No comments:

Post a Comment