To grill or not to grill: Rosemary Pork Chops

by Terry B on June 11, 2008

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
Serves 4

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.

Grilled Zucchini
Serves 4

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.

Grilled Asparagus

Asparagus, tough ends snapped off
olive oil
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.

Kitchen Notes

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?

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

rachel June 11, 2008 at 10:33 am

This looks yummy! We are really into grilling this year.

Mary Coleman June 11, 2008 at 11:37 am

We grill a lot around here, Terry, but there is absolutely nothing like your pan sauteed pork chop. NOTHING!

Mike of Mike's Table June 11, 2008 at 2:54 pm

I’m a sucker for the grill and becoming ever more smitten by slowly smoking food. Do you feel the same way about smoked food as you do grilling? Either way, the pork sounds delicious

Terry B June 11, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Rachel—Thanks! I’m going to try to do a little more grilling this summer, to see if I can learn to love it more.

Mary—Gawrsh, ma’am, thanks! Perfect segue too—Mary’s referring to some pan-seared Rosemary Sage Chops I posted sometime back. These will give you my basic approach to this cooking method, one of my favorites.

Mike—I love the taste of smoked food, but I’ve never attempted it. The last thing I need is another bulky cooking tool that I rarely use. But if I find myself down Florida way, I’d be happy to sample some of your efforts!

evi June 11, 2008 at 3:33 pm

That’s it. I’m cookin’ this recipe tonight!

Terry B June 11, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Wow, evi, you actually have a place you can grill in the East Village? Or are you doing the hot pan version?

Kalyn June 11, 2008 at 5:03 pm

That looks like a delicious meal. I hadn’t thought of marinating pork chops in red wine, but that idea really appeals to me. Glad you liked the grilled zucchini. I have a few baby zucchini in the garden and hope I’ll be cooking that soon around here.

Susan from Food Blogga June 11, 2008 at 9:55 pm

I don’t grill nearly as often as I’d like. We have a common grill at our condo, but it’s such as hassle bringing everything out there, ya know? But then I see posts like this one, and I say, “What am I nuts?” I’m going to the grill this weekend, my friend! And for the record, I’m crazy about grilled asparagus.

Nicole June 11, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Hey Terry! I am about to go throw together this marinade because, miraculously, I have all the ingredients on hand! I don’t have any pork chops so I defrosted a pork tenderloin and I’ll put that in your yummy-sounding marinade for a couple of hours. I also happen to have some zucchini hanging out in the fridge so I think I’ll whip up a vinaigrette for them. Usually I just do the olive oil, salt and pepper thing with my grilled zukes, but I’m ready for a change! Happy to hear that the weather (kind of) cooperated with you and your grill!

Jean June 12, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I’m usually a pan method girl myself, but there are times when nothing can compare to a grill. I do love my grill pan, though, and often use that for veggies like zucchini and onions. Great recipe!

Terry B June 12, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Kalyn—This zucchini recipe will definitely be used a lot this summer. Thanks for the idea!

Susan—I understand the hassle issue. Our apartment is on the second floor, so grilling means manymanymany trips up and down. And honestly, the running is less of an issue than timing non-grilled foods, so making everything on the grill this time meant I didn’t also have to be watching the stove. Make aheads like potato salad or slaw can solve this issue, of course.

Nicole—Pork tenderloin is a wonderful cut of meat for all kinds of uses. I bet it was great for this!

Jean—I’m right there with you. I plan to do the zucchini in my grilling pan sometime when I don’t feel like firing up the grill.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) June 12, 2008 at 9:01 pm

I’m going right past the pork chops to the vegetables — I love grilled veggies, especially asparagus and zucchini — both of which are happy with just some black pepper and a bit of lemon, or a quick dip in a bit of aioli. I grill all year round.

ming the merciless June 14, 2008 at 2:33 am

My history with grilling isn’t stellar either. I’ve burnt more food than I care to admit.

The last time I tried grilling asparagus, they were left on too long that they tasted like cotton strings. :-)

diva@theSugarBar June 15, 2008 at 4:11 pm

best plate of chops i’ve seen in a while! wonderfully done

Terry B June 15, 2008 at 6:52 pm

Lydia—Do try the zucchini in some sort of Italian dressing or vinaigrette. The vinegar gives it an extra zing, similar perhaps to the brightening effect of lemon juice, but different enough for a nice change of pace.

ming—I think we’ve all had more than a few cooking disasters along the way.

Thanks, Diva! And back atcha on your gorgeous King Prawn Pancetta Fried Rice—it looks restaurant beautiful.

love, tastespotting June 28, 2008 at 12:43 am

thanks for the submission to the new tastespotting! it’s gorgeous outside where we are and are thinking of things to grill for dinner…

Kitchen Goddess June 28, 2008 at 10:25 am

Looks delicious

gemma July 7, 2008 at 7:08 pm

Thanks for posting a link to my marathon site!

Terry B July 7, 2008 at 8:39 pm

Glad to do it, Gemma. And good luck to you on your upcoming run!

Haley July 14, 2008 at 6:33 pm

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