This recipe for juicy brined pork chops is a variation on one I’ve been making for years. While I was in Tuscany during my DaVinci Storyteller experience earlier this fall, I soaked up the aura and sensory beauty of the place – it’s hard not to! Aromatic foliage grows wild everywhere, like bay laurel, lavender and rosemary, each of which happen to be classic and delicious seasonings for thick cut pork chops.
My recipe is a relatively “quick” brine with a slightly denser solution of salt (about 10 percent) than I’d use for an overnight brine. Because more often than not I’m crunched for time, I end up using this recipe a lot. While the chops only sit in the brine for an hour or two (and up to 4) they still turn out flavorful.
Crushing and bruising the aromatic ingredients helps distribute their essence into the liquid without the need for boiling, steeping, then cooling the brine, all of which takes up precious minutes. I’ve tried adding ice cubes to quickly cool the brine, but when too busy even for that, I found the cold-water method works just as well.
As food scientist Harold McGee explains, the way brining works is that salt and water move into the fibers of meat, disrupting and partially dissolving the muscle filaments while expanding them. The meat becomes tenderized while being infused with whatever aromatic molecules are present in the liquid, no matter hot or cold.
Enough technical stuff – simply enjoy these chops, with garlic and olive-oil braised cannellini beans and either a full, earthy Brunello di Montalcino (my favorite) or a juicy Chianti Classico from DaVinci Wines.
- 4 thick-cut pork rib chops (1 ½ inches) 9 - 10 ounces each
- ½ cup kosher salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 crushed garlic cloves
- 4 crumbled bay leaves
- 2 sprigs rosemary, roughly chopped, plus 1 tablespoon chopped
- 2 dried red chili peppers, crumbled
- Zest of one lemon, peeled with a vegetable peeler
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Salsa Verde:
- 1 cup Italian parsley leaves
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 teaspoons salt-preserved capers, rinsed
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Put the pork chops in a gallon size freezer bag and place the bag in a large bowl.
- In another large bowl whisk the salt and sugar with 6 cups water until dissolved. Add the garlic, bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, chili and lemon zest. Pour the brine over the pork. Seal bag and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.
- Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill.
- Remove chops from brine and pat dry. Place chops on the grill and cook 4 minutes per side. They should be nicely browned and register between 135 - 140 degrees on a meat thermometer.
- Loosely cover the chops with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Season with black pepper to taste and sprinkle with chopped rosemary; serve with Salsa Verde.
- To make Salsa Verde, pulse parsley, arugula and cilantro in a food processor until chopped. Add garlic, capers, olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt and pulse until combined. Taste and season with additional salt if desired.