Monday, 30 May 2011

Brined pork chops with crushed sage and apple potatoes

One of the biggest challenges of cooking on a budget is making cheap meat taste good. It can of course be done by long slow cooking but you don't always have the time. One solution, which works particularly well with pork chops is brining - leaving the meat in a lightly spiced salt and sugar solution* for several hours (although I suppose that takes a fair amount of time too. Or forethought at least). I'm sure the health police will get me for this but I have to say it makes a world of difference turning bland, tasteless, sometimes slightly tough cuts into tender, tasty but not overly salty ones. Give it a try.

Both recipes - the crushed potatoes make a really good accompaniment - serve 4

For the chops

75g coarse sea salt
40g unrefined granulated or caster sugar
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp juniper berries
a few allspice berries or a pinch of ground allspice
2 bay leaves
4 pork chops
2 tbsp light olive oil or sunflower oil
25g butter
Freshly ground black pepper

Measure out 1.5 litres of water into a saucepan. Add the salt and sugar and heat gently until both are dissolved. Add the peppercorns, juniper, allspice and bayleaves stir and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes then remove from the heat and cool.

Lay the chops in a single layer in a roasting tin or baking dish, pour over the brine and leave for 12 hours in the fridge. Preheat the grill to high. Rinse the chops and pat them dry with kitchen towel. Heat the oil gently and add the butter. Put the chops in a grill pan, brush generously with the oil and butter mix, season with pepper and grill for 6-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops. Turn over, brush the other side with the oil and butter mixture, season and grill for another 6-8 minutes. Rest in a warm place for 5 minutes. Serve with the sage and onion spuds below
You can obviously also fry the chops which is what I did tonight.

For the crushed sage and apple potatoes

600g washed new potatoes
3 tbsp light olive oil or sunflower oil
1 bunch of spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 medium eating apple (e.g. Blenheim or Cox)
A small handful of sage leaves, woody stalks removed
Salt and pepper (white for preference)

Cook the potatoes in boiling water for 8-10 minutes or until just tender. Drain and cool slightly. Heat a large frying pan and add the oil and heat for about 2 minutes. Add the onions, apple and sage and stir fry for a minute then slice the potatoes into the pan. Crush the potatoes with a wooden spoon or fork and fry for about 7-8 minutes, turning the mixture every couple of minutes until it's lightly browned Season well with salt and pepper

* This recipe originally came from my book Meat and Two Veg. Looking at it through more frugal eyes I can see that the spices in the brine might be a bit of an outlay if you don't already have them although you can get allspice quite cheaply from afro-caribbean grocers and juniper berries from health food stores and both last a good while. If you haven't got them don't fret just add a few more peppercorns.


EvidenceMatters said...

I like brining. There's some controversy about whether or not it's worth putting spices in a brine as not many of them seem to penetrate the meat so they can readily be omitted. (In some limited expts., the only flavours that obviously affect a meat when brined seem to be star anise, bayleaf, lemon zest - I'd be interested in those that others can detect.)

Fiona Beckett said...

Funnily enough I was thinking about star anise as an alternative. One 'star' should do it as the flavour is very strong. Bayleaf always worth including I feel though.