Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cocoa-and-Chile-Rubbed Pork Chops

The Spouse had originally requested my Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops but I decided I wanted to make this one instead. It involves some techniques that really piqued my interest (brining! indirect grilling!). It was a bit cold and cloudy to grill out but that's never stopped us before, seeing as we've shoveled the grill out in times past.

I made a few changes - notably, I only brined the pork chops for 30 minutes since ours weren't as thick as the original recipe called for. I also omitted the olive oil - it didn't need it.

As far as cooking, we have a large 4-burner grill and the hottest spot is the left hand corner. To create an appropriate "cool zone," I turned the two left burners on, left the 3rd one off, and turned the 4th one on medium-low. Then I put the pork chops just to the right-of-center after the first 4 minutes. I think that this helped balance the heat a bit better and provided a nice slow, even cooking temp.

The result was a taste that was almost like a deconstructed mole and chops that was perfectly moist and juicy.

Cocoa-and-Chile-Rubbed Pork Chops

2 quarts water
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp plus 1 tbsp Kosher salt
4 boneless pork loin chops
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp ancho chile powder

In a large bowl, combine the water with the red pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the pork chops and let brine at room temperature for 1 hour.

Light a grill and create a cool zone (for a charcoal grill, rake the coals to one side; for a gas grill, leave one side unlit). In a bowl, mix the cocoa, sugar and ancho powder with 1 tablespoon of salt.

Drain the pork chops and pat dry, removing any bits of crushed pepper. Roll the pork chops in the cocoa rub and pat to help it adhere. Grill over moderately high heat for 4 minutes, turning the chops once until lightly browned. Transfer the chops to the cool zone, cover and grill for about 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the chops registers 135° for medium meat. Let the chops rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Wine Pairing: Food & Wine recommended a fruity Zinfandel from Paso Robles, so I picked up a bottle from Trader Joe's called Novella. As The Spouse put it, this was a fantastic summer grilling wine and, I predict, will become a staple for summer parties to follow.

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