Pork chops are dry brined to keep them juicy and tender, then pan seared with rosemary. They’re topped with peaches and frisée quickly cooked in the same pan. Recipe below.
Forensic anthropologists would have a field day with my right hip pocket. It’s home to an ever shifting collection of folded scraps of paper, most covered with scribbled food notes. Some are shopping lists, folded and refolded to accommodate new lists. Looking at old lists, I can often reconstruct the meals I cooked based on the ingredients acquired.
Others are terse, cryptic notes to myself—reminders of food ideas to spark a recipe. Like this one written on a Saveur magazine subscription card: “wilted frisée.” Those two words had been inspired by three words I’d just seen, probably in an article in the Saveur from which the card had come: “charred bitter greens.” I don’t even remember the article or the context now, but I do remember making the immediate leap from those three words to the idea of pork chops pan seared with rosemary and topped with peaches and frisée quickly cooked in the still hot pan. And I could immediately taste it. The salt, rosemary and juicy, fatty meat of the chops mingling with the mildly bitter greens and sweet peach bites.
Food inspiration comes from many places for us. Last week’s biscuits and vegetarian gravy came from a cookbook. Restaurant meals sometimes inspire us, as do ingredients spotted at the farmers market. But this kind of inspiration is one of my favorites—random phrases or photographs of food causing synapses to fire, taking us in unexpected directions. I like to think of it as cooking from the hip. Or in my case, the right hip pocket.
The juicy details about dry brining. I learned this technique before I knew it had a name. From the first time we throw a piece of meat on the grill or into a pan, we’re told to not salt it until the last minute. Salt, we’re warned, draws the moisture in the meat to the surface, where it cooks off, leaving the steak, chop or whatever dry and chewy. And if you salt meat just a few minutes ahead, that’s exactly what happens.
But if you salt it 15 minutes to an hour ahead (or longer, with thick cuts like roasts), using coarse kosher salt, then rinse the salt off and pat the meat dry, something very different occurs. The ions in the salt actually alter the proteins in the meat, making them retain water, so the meat keeps more moisture when it’s cooked. The meat is naturally tenderized too.
Dry brining is faster and easier than brining with a liquid mixture. And with pork, it overcomes the tendency for the sugar that’s a necessary part of brining liquids to give the meat a hamlike flavor. You can find out more about dry brining here.
Pork Chops with Peaches and Wilted Frisée
4 bone-in pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick
coarse kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium firm ripe peach, pitted and cut into chunks
6 to 8 ounces frisée torn into medium pieces, 3 cups packed
Trim excess fat from pork chops and place them in a single layer on a large plate. Salt generously with coarse kosher salt, as much as a teaspoon per side. Set aside for 15 to 45 minutes or more (if you go longer than 45 minutes, cover with plastic and refrigerate). Rinse chops under cold running water and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels.
Season chops on both sides with freshly ground black pepper and rosemary, pressing gently to help rosemary stick to chops. DO NOT ADD ANY MORE SALT. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high flame. When pan is hot, sear chops until well browned on one side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook on second side another 3 to 4 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers at least 145ºF in the thickest part of the chop. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil.
Reduce heat to medium. Add peaches to pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring gently with a wooden spatula occasionally. Add frisée and cook, tossing with a pair of wooden spatulas until it just begins to wilt, 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer frisée and peaches to a bowl with a slotted spoon so it doesn’t continue to cook as you plate the chops. Place chops on individual plates and top with peach/frisée mixture. Serve.