Family and Friend Inspiration. My Childhood Friend, who goes back to kindergarten, surprised me with a Dinner Roulette suggestion of Fennel Crusted Pork Chops with Onion Strings, Apple Cranberry Compote and Root Vegetable Hash. This surprised me because he hasn’t eaten pork or onions for years- pork for religious reasons and onions for spousal reasons. It just goes to show you how strong food memories can be, so get to cooking and start making those memories.
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes, any longer than that, you’re really not trying hard enough said the Dad.
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes or so, but I don’t like giving cooking times
Preheat: Grill: medium high heat.
Get Your Stuff Out.
2 tablespoons coarsely ground/crushed fennel seeds
2 tablespoons coarsely ground/crushed coriander seeds
1 tablespoon coarsely ground/crushed cumin seed
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 thick bone in pork rib chops, about 1-1/2″ or 10-12 ounces each
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper
Cook and Play.
Tell your Smart Speaker (I broke up with Alexa because she only cares about Jeff) to play Last Pork Chop by Hank Williams Jr, remembering it’s just a song, and get to cooking-
- Combine 2 tablespoons ground/crushed fennel seeds, 2 tablespoons ground/crushed coriander seeds and 1 tablespoon ground/crushed cumin seed in a small bowl. You’ll have more than you need for this recipe, so store what’s left in an air tight container- like a small Mason jar, if that’s not too trendy for you.
- I hope you remembered to preheat your grill to medium high, but if you didn’t, do it now. Once it’s hot, clean the grill grates with a sturdy grill brush and wipe it done with a paper towel coated with 1 tablespoon of canola oil and held with long tongs- move quickly and carefully to avoid igniting the paper towel/porch.
- Season your chops evenly with 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper- make sure to get it on the top, bottom and all sides of your chops- best to do this last night.
- Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of Pig Rub evenly on the top, bottom and all sides of your chops.
- “Bake” chops over indirect heat on the grill, close cover and check core temps periodically until you hit 110-120 degrees.
- Sear chops on your grill over direct heat, leaving each side alone for a few minutes to get nice browning/grill marks all over- that means top, bottom and all sides of chops!
- Cook until center temperature is safe, which the government says is at least 145 degrees, with at least a 3 minute rest. You are in charge of your food safety, but I cook my chops a little more since I don’t really trust the government and we have a senior in the house. PS- check out TMI if you don’t know about direct and indirect grilling.
- Let the chops rest on a wire rack in a sheet pan, for at least 3 minutes while you have your kids set the table- yah, right.
The Dad Joke. While some might think Spice Crusted Pork Chops- This Little Piggy Should Have Stayed Home is a bit mean for a Dad Joke, I see nothing wrong with a reminder about the origin of our food. If the title does bother you, however, perhaps it’s time to check out the Veg Out Alternative for this recipe. I think my point is best illustrated by something my Youngest Daughter said when she was 7 or 8 years old. Youngest Daughter, a meat lover at the time, was in the back seat with a friend, as we were driving to a hockey game. Her friend pointed to a picture of a pig in a book they were sharing; exclaiming, “Aren’t piggies so cute!”, to which my daughter replied, “Yeah, and they taste good too!”. The happy ending to this Pig Tale is that Youngest Daughter is now a pescatarian- apparently fish aren’t all that cute.
The Key To the Recipe. Make sure to get a nice brown on your chops, make the effort to crisp up the fat and don’t you dare over cook them !
Special Equipment. Mortar and Pestle/Spice Grinder. You will need to use either a mortar and pestle or spice (aka coffee) grinder to coarsely grind/crush your spices. Walter White was on to something- a mortar and pestle can help you cook better- and I prefer it to a spice grinder since it offers more control over the texture of your final product. I also think it looks cool- my wife disagrees and we go back and forth putting it out on the counter. Sheet Pan with Wire Racks. This set up is a great combo, like Batman and Robin, to fight against the bottom of food becoming overcooked and/or soggy during or after cooking- Holy, Tasty Food, Batman!
Ingredients of Note. Spice Mixes. I do have a few sentimental favorites, but I generally avoid spice mixes since they are expen$ive salt bombs. I favor my own mixes, leaving the salt out and adding it directly to the food before and after cooking. Pick whatever spices you think go with your food- in this case, I’ve gone with some typical fall/pork spices, but you should experiment as you wish- perhaps adding a bit of red pepper flakes or cayenne if you like it spicy. You also fare better if you buy whole spices to grind/crush yourself. Last thing- with most spices, if the spices will not be toasted as the food cooks- which will happen in this recipe, but not with something like a curry- toast your spices before you add them to your recipe to enhance their flavor. Pork Rib Chops. There are a few cuts of pork chops- rib, loin, blade, sirloin, but, as far as I’m concerned the only choice is the rib chop. Let’s cut to the chase- a rib chop is a tender center cut of the loin, with a baby back rib attached- yes, you heard me right, a baby back rib! Let’s face it, if a head of lettuce came with a baby back rib attached, I’d be eating a lot more salads! For your best chance at moist and flavorful chops, keep the chops as thick as you can- 1 1/2” or so- or even thicker if you get a “double chop”- a chop with two baby back ribs! Even better, if you can find chops or any pork product from a “heritage” or “heirloom” breed of pork, you will also be helping yourself to win the flavor battle. BTW- “Boneless” Pork Chops are a lie perpetuated by The Man- don’t buy them!
To Brine or Not To Brine? Many recipes have you soaking your chops and other lean meats in a salty water brine to make them more flavorful and moist, but do you really want to do that? I mean filling up a big container, dissolving the salt, finding room in the fridge for it, patting the meat dry when it comes out of the brine so it gets a nice sear? To quote a great American- “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”. All is not lost for us lazy/efficient cooks however, because you can “dry brine” your lean meat by simply salting it in advance- the night before would be great, but even most any time before you’ll be cooking will still help.
The Other White Meat. I remember my mom cooked the heck and most of the moisture out of her pork chops, but they were still delicious in my mind’s eye because the fat on the chop would fry up to crispy goodness. Mom was also savvy enough to always serve her incinerated chops with applesauce; which, when applied to each bite, took care of the dryness issue. Mom used a similar technique on petrified pot roast by always offering mashed potatoes and gravy. Back then, of course, the word on the street, and at the USDA, was that pork, with even a hint of moisture could kill you, but now, even the USDA lets you cook your pork to 145 degrees, with at least a 3 minute rest.
The Reverse Sear. The rub (yes, pun intended!), when it comes to cooking thicker cuts of meat, is that low heat gives you tender but bland meat, while high heat gives tasty brown bits and delicious crispy skin/fat, but very dry meat. The way to solve this long standing conflict is to use both types of heat when cooking. You could start with high heat and finish with low, but I think the best results come from starting with low heat and finishing with high heat- hence The Reverse Sear!
Grill Like A Dad. To be fair, you could grill like a Mom too, if your Mom is into grilling- and why wouldn’t she be? In any event, to get a Reverse Sear with a grill, you need to use indirect and direct heat. Start your chops over indirect heat by preheating your grill. Then turn off one or more burners (depending on grill size) so there is room to place your chops over the extinguished burner(s), while leaving the remaining burner(s) on. Put your chops on the grill over the extinguished burner(s) and cover them until they hit a core temperature that is about 25-35 degrees under the end cooking temperature- check on the internal temp from time to time until you get the hang of it. Finish cooking your chops by searing them over an ignited burner(s) so hey look pretty and taste even better. Honestly, when you are searing chops, you should not only be searing the tops and bottoms of the chops, you should also be searing the sides. Now searing the thinner, less balanced sides can be tricky, especially over a grill, but it’s worth it and I know you can do it! It’s best to use long tongs for this to avoid having to hold your hairy or not hairy arms over the grill or, if you’re really good and have an obedient pig, you can train your chops to balance on their sides without having to hold them in place with tongs.
Pan Sear- A “Healthy” Way of Saying Pan Fry. If it’s too cold out for you to grill, and it never is, you could pan sear the chops. It’s a bit more involved than a grill, in the sense that you have to use an oven for indirect cooking and a fry pan for direct cooking, but that’s what you get when you don’t respect the grill. For these chops, you would preheat your oven to 250 degrees, cook them in the oven on a baking sheet with wire rack until their core temp hits 115-125 and finish them in a very hot fry pan- searing every speck of the surface area of the chops until their core temperature reaches at least 145 degrees, with at least a 3 minute rest. If you are in a hurry, you could raise the temperature in the oven- I’ve gone as high as 400- but your chops will be a bit drier- nothing that can’t be remedied with a little applesauce- thanks Mom! WARNING- USE AN OVEN MITT WHENEVER HANDLING THE FRY PAN ONCE IT GOES IN THE OVEN.
Course: meaty main
Keyword: pork chops, autumn, grill
The Rest of the Dinner
Veg Out Version: No Pigs Were Harmed in the Making of These Cauliflower Chops
Square Root Veggie Hash Link Coming Soon
Fry Daddy Onion Strings Link Coming Soon
Bougie Applesauce Link Coming Soon
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