|Coffee and Molasses Brined Pork Chop with Roasted Corn Salsa and Watercress Salad|
Mrs. Stuntman started with a new employer recently and, while she is getting acquainted with her new colleagues, it presented an opportunity to introduce myself through my food. You see, I'll normally prepare at least one extra serving of whatever we eat for dinner so she can brown bag the leftovers the next day.
Since Seattle is known for coffee, I wanted to feature it in a savory application, especially since the food pairing in The Flavor Bible suggest a dessert. The concept of pairing pork with coffee isn't new to me but I wanted to explore it more, especially since the coffee in the other pork with coffee dish I've prepared had a muted coffee flavor. I knew that pork pairs well with sweet flavors (which is the reason why apples pair so well with pork), so I thought corn might be an interesting substitution in addition to balancing out the flavors with a mild spice and acid. Also, after performing a Google image search for pork chops fine dining, I noticed that nearly all were double cut with the bone frenched, so I wanted to present my dish in a similar manner. While double cut chops would have been too large a portion for my family, I did ask the supermarket where I purchased them to French my chops.
Make Mrs. Stuntman's colleagues envious of her brown bag lunch by elevating it.
To execute this dish, I compiled from a number of different sources. I adapted the brine from allrecipes.com; the salsa from Eating Well magazine and the salad from Food & Wine magazine.
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup kosher salt plus more for seasoning, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups strongly brewed coffee
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup ice cubes
4 bone-in pork rib chops about 1/2-inch thick, frenched
4 cups corn kernels
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
t tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bunch watercress leaves, stems removed
1. Prepare the salad dressing. Combine the lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Brine the pork chops. Combine the water, coffee, brown sugar, 1/4 cup kosher salt, molasses in a large bowl and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Place the pork chops in a large resealable bag with the ice cubes and pour the brine over the pork. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 3 hours.
3. Prepare the salsa. While the pork is in the brine, place a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the corn and red bell pepper and cook, stirring periodically until browned, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, then stir in the red onion, lime juice, cilantro, basil, and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
4. Finish the pork and complete the dish. Remove the pork from the brine and discard the brine. Pat the chops dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat and, once hot, sear the pork chops, in batches if necessary, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the chops to a plate to allow for carryover cooking. While the pork rests, whisk the salad dressing again, then toss with the watercress. To present, spoon some salsa onto a warmed plate, top on one side with a pork chop and garnish with the watercress. Serve immediately.
I'll confess and note here that by the time I got to the pork, it had been sitting in the brine for closer to four hours. I was praying that my protein was not over-brined but my fears were nullified when the first thing Mrs. Stuntman noticed was how juicy the pork was. In addition, the coffee infused into the pork giving it a deep, rich flavor which contrasted well with the corn salsa which was well balanced on its own. I also slightly overdressed the watercress but the lemon in the dressing gave the dish a brightness. Overall, each element complemented the other.
Finally, Mrs. Stuntman reports that her lunch breaks are spent alone because she thinks her colleagues feel inadequate with their sandwiches bought from the delicatessen next door.