My initial plan for a post this week was to cook up a pork tenderloin with a homemade raspberry chipotle glaze – something I have done many times on the grill with both pork and venison tenderloins – but a pair of disasters derailed that plan on Friday. Disaster # 1 was the fact that the supposedly fresh pork tenderloin I had purchased on Wednesday was decidedly ‘less than fresh’ when I pulled it out of its wrapper yesterday, and Disaster #2 was caused by my inability to keep fresh raspberries in the kitchen for more than 6 hours or so without devouring them.
A third, rather unavoidable issue forced me to make a serious change to the manner in which this dish was going to be prepared – Mother Nature decided earlier in the week that the entire State of Kentucky needed to be turned into an ice skating rink, and gave us a real nice ice storm as an early Christmas gift. If I had to guess, I would say that 95% or more of the dishes I prepare that involve meat are done on the grill, and I am one of those people who will brave the elements year-round to grill up some food but ice is where I have to draw the line. The porch was a solid sheet of frozen evil, and my grill was a gleaming stainless steel icicle on the far side of the sheet, making any attempt at getting to it to cook potentially painful and/or fatal so the chops were going to have to be cooked indoors.
As luck would have it, I had a brand new enameled cast iron frying pan I picked earlier in the week as a Christmas gift to myself just sitting around doing nothing, so out of the box it came and off to the kitchen I went.
Pork is a great meat for the grill or the oven, but one thing people often complain about is the tendency for it to get tough and dry when overcooked or even when cooked ‘correctly’. There is a very fine line between a moist and juicy pork chop and a spongy, chewy mess, but there are a two important things that you can do to help keep your pork experience on the pleasant side:
1) Buy thick cut chops. Bone-in or boneless, a thicker cut chop gives you much more room for error than a thin cut chop will. Thicker cut chops also allow you to get creative and play with techniques like butterflying or stuffing the chops, which can lead to some pretty awesome kitchen discoveries.
(My personal favorite, and a recipe that will end up on here one day, is mango-stuffed thick cut chops.)
2) Brine your meat! If you take nothing else away from this post, please please please remember this little technique – it works with any cut of pork or chicken, and will help you make some of the juiciest, most flavorful food you have ever grilled/baked/etc.
There are probably hundreds or more different recipes for brines out there, but a simple one that works every time for me is: 2 Tablespoons of kosher salt, 2 tablespoons of either light brown sugar or maple syrup, and a quart of water. Dissolve the salt and sugar/syrup in the water, pour it over the meat in a bowl or freezer bag, and let it sit in the fridge for an hour. It makes a huge difference .
Now on to the recipe…
Oven-Baked Pork Chops
- Thick cut pork chops – boneless loin or bone-in (1 per person)
- Kosher salt
- Cracked black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Blueberry chipotle sauce (recipe below)
- 1 Tablespoon of olive oil (or other oil of choice)
Step 1: BRINE YOUR CHOPS!!!
Step 2: Preheat oven to 400° F.
Step 3: Remove chops from the brine and pat dry. Season both sides of the chops with salt, pepper, and a light dusting of garlic powder. (You can also use any dry rub you like here, but season lightly – you don’t want to overwhelm the blueberry sauce)
Step 5: Place the chops in the pan for approximately 4 minutes until the surface of the chop is beginning to brown. Flip and repeat for 2 minutes on the other side.
Step 6: Using a brush or a spoon, top each chop with a thin layer of the blueberry chipotle sauce (see picture)
Step 7: Remove the pan from the burner and place it in the oven on a middle rack. Cook for an additional 8 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven.
Step 8: Remove the chops from the pan and serve with the remaining sauce as a condiment.
Note: If you make this on a grill, the process would be season, grill, flip and then sauce, finish grilling. No oven or pan necessary.
- 2 Cups fresh or frozen blueberries
- 2 Chipotle chiles from a can of chipotles in adobo
- 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the can of chipotles
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 2 Tablespoons chicken / vegetable stock
- 1/4 teaspoon ancho cilli powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
Step 2: Simmer the ingredients for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to mix, mashing the berries with a potato mixer, spatula, or other kitchen implement.
Step 3: Pour the mixture into a mesh strainer and press the liquid out with a spatula (this removes the blueberry skins). Pour the strained mix back into the strainer and re-strain at least once to get all the good stuff.
Step 4: Pour the strained mixture back into the saucepan and simmer on medium-low heat until it reduces to a thick sauce-like consistency. Stir often with a spatula.
Step 5: Place the thickened sauce in a bowl or jar if making ahead, or use directly on chops as called for.
Yield for Sauce: 1-1.5 cups, depending how thick you reduce it down.
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