Grilled asparagus and grilled zucchini make perfect sides for grilled pork chops marinated in red wine, rosemary and garlic. Recipes below.
I don’t grill a lot. I’ve already given my reasons for being less than enthusiastic about this form of cooking that borders on obsession for many home cooks, both here [in which I sang the praises of a good pan and a hot stove] and here [where I did haul out the grill and produced some juicy, tender Hoisin Chicken].
But as warm weather approaches each year, I have moments of viewing my lack of interest in grilling as a culinary personality defect, a flaw to be corrected. So this past weekend, the grill came out and I produced not just one dish, but three. For the main course, I made Pork Chops with Rosemary. These chops can also be made with the aforementioned good pan and hot stove; see Kitchen Notes. For sides, I made Grilled Asparagus and Grilled Zucchini.
The weather was less than promising as I started prepping in the kitchen, yet another reason I’m not overly excited about grilling. My track record in this regard is not what you’d call stellar. In fact, if you’re ever experiencing severe drought where you live, invite me over to cook out. The bluest of skies will cloud up and produce a deluge just about the time I start firing up the charcoal. Miraculously, though, on this most unsettled of weekends with storms popping up everywhere and a tornado ripping through the far southern suburbs, it rained before and after I cooked, but not a drop fell during.
To prepare these dishes to be served at the same time, I started by marinating the chops for a couple of hours. I also prepped the zucchini and let it marinate. Then I started the charcoal in a chimney. Charcoal chimneys are great, by the way. No lighter fluid fumes or aftertaste and no match light charcoal with its own fumes—just some balled up newspaper and some matches and you’re on your way to charcoals ready to grill with in 20 minutes or so.
While the coals got ready, I took the chops out of the refrigerator to let them warm up a bit. These chops were a little thicker than the 3/4-inch chops I prefer, a little thicker than 1 inch, so I decided to start them over direct heat to give them grill marks and, I hoped, seal in the moisture, then move them away from the coals to cook by indirect heat.
After searing the chops [more details in the recipe] and moving them off the direct heat, I had about 20 minutes to prepare the asparagus. Once I removed the chops from the grill, I cooked the vegetables while the chops rested.
Pork Chops with Rosemary
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops, 3/4-inch thick
Whisk oil, wine, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper to blend. Place pork chops in zippered plastic bag, pour marinade over chops, zip bag closed and turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour or refrigerate up to 4 hours, turning chops occasionally.
Prepare grill. Remove chops from marinade, shaking off excess. Arrange hot coals on one side of the grill kettle. Lightly oil grill and arrange chops directly over coals. Grill about 5 minutes per side, covering with lid if necessary to subdue flare-ups. Move chops away from coals and cover the grill with all vents open. Let chops roast undisturbed until about medium inside, about 20 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 150 – 155ºF [66 – 69°C] in the center of the thickest part of the chop. Be careful to avoid bones when you insert the thermometer. Transfer chops to platter and tent with foil.
Grill the prepped vegetables and serve.
Zucchini. My original plan was to just toss zucchini slices with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and call it done. But a quick search turned up more than a few recipes that called for tossing the zucchini with Italian salad dressing. Including Kalyn’s version from Kalyn’s Kitchen, which was the first result on Google! Most called for your favorite bottled dressing. I opted for the garlicky vinaigrette that I learned to make in an old French woman’s kitchen in St. Louis.
1 pound of zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch slices on the diagonal
1/4-cup Italian salad dressing [not creamy] or vinaigrette
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
a pinch or so of dried oregano or basil [optional]
Toss zucchini slices, dressing, ground pepper and herbs in bowl to coat thoroughly. Let marinate for 2 to 4 hours unrefrigerated. Shake slices to remove excess marinade and place on grill over coals. Grill for about 5 minutes, turning once, until zucchini is nicely grill-marked on both sides and slightly limp. You may have to cover grill if dripping marinade causes flare-ups. Remove to serving dish. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Asparagus. I tend to measure asparagus not by weight, but by number of spears. About 6 to 8 spears is a good single serving, depending on thickness. This is so simple, I hesitate to call it a recipe. It is also, however, quite delicious.
Asparagus, tough ends snapped off
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
a squeeze of lemon juice [optional]
Toss asparagus spears with a drizzle of olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Grill for about 5 minutes, turning once, until spears are nicely grill-marked on both sides. Again, you may have to cover the grill if dripping marinade causes flare-ups. Remove to serving dish. Drizzle with a little lemon juice, if desired, and serve immediately or at room temperature.
To grill or not to grill: The verdict. So how did the smokiness of the grill compare to the flavor produced by a hot pan? I’ve prepared these chops a number of times on the stovetop; this was the first time I used the grill. While I do love the smoky taste of meats cooked over charcoal, I think there’s something extra added to these chops when seared in a hot pan. Only there do you get the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, akin to caramelizing vegetables. Some of pork’s inherent sweetness comes out and mingles with the savory flavors. That said, when Marion was slicing up some of the leftover pork for a quick Chinese dish the next night and I snagged a bite of it cold, It was superb. So both are good. Just make sure to trust your meat thermometer and not let the pork overcook.
And the vegetables? Wonderful, of course. Especially the zucchini—thanks for the inspiration, Kalyn!
Also this week in Blue Kitchen, 6/11/2008
You say “tomato”—I say “salmonella.” Find out what tomatoes are safe to eat in this recent salmonella outbreak, at WTF? Random food for thought.
Miles Davis—in a silent, electrified way. Ever the jazz innovator, Miles took on electric psychedelic rock with electric jazz, at What’s on the kitchen boombox?