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June 22, 2014

Food Thread: [CBD]

Pepper.JPG

Y-not had an interesting point about pepper -- that ubiquitous spice that we use without thinking -- "Why is pepper the go-to second flavoring? Is it more about biology/physiology or politics or trade or what?"

So I consulted my trusty copy of "On Food And Cooking: The Science And Lore of The Kitchen," by Harold McGee.


And what did I learn? Not much. I had hoped to discover some physiological process that makes pepper something special, but no, it's just a pungent spice without any special role in the biology of taste.

But ignorance has never stopped me from giving my opinion, so I will hazard a guess that the main reason is simple: that it has been around for a very long time, and we are just very comfortable with it. As McGee says:

Black pepper was one of the first spices to be traded westward from Asia, and today it remains the preeminent spice in Europe and North America. We think of it as a basic seasoning, like salt, and use its moderate pungency and pleasant aroma to fill out the flavor of many savory dishes, often just before eating them. Pepper is native to the tropical coastal mountains od southwest India, where sea and overland trade with the ancient world began at least 3,500 years ago. It is mentioned in Egyptian papyruses, was well known to the ancient Greeks, and a popular spice in Rome.

Potato Dominoes.jpg

Here is an interesting recipe that requires some kitchen skills; not for flavor but for appearance. It is an undeniably great looking dish, but having tried it once, I will not be making it again unless Brooklyn Decker asks me nicely.

grilled-pork-chops.jpg

For these chops I prefer the rib end of the roast. The other end has a chunk of the tenderloin, which is easily overcooked and dried out, even when brined.

Brined, Grilled Pork Chops

2 thick pork chops, preferably at least two inches thick
two ounces kosher salt
two ounces packed brown sugar
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Dissolve the sugar and salt in 16 oz. of hot water. When completely dissolved add the rest of the ingredients and then top off with another 8 oz. of cold water and enough ice to make 1 quart in total.

Place the chops in a sealable container in which they will just fit, completely submerged. Add the brine slowly until the chops are completely covered. Seal the container and pop it into the refrigerator for at least two hours, but no more than four hours, or they will be too salty. If I remember I will flip the chops once or twice, just to make sure that they are brined evenly.

When they are done, pour off the brine, pat the chops dry, but leave the sprigs of thyme. When I grill the chops I like to put the thyme on top of the chops, and when I turn them the thyme smokes and burns and adds some nice flavors. Refrigerate until 30 minutes before you are ready to cook.

Remove from brine, rinse quickly under cold water, then pat dry. Smear 1 tablespoon of mustard all over each chop and set aside until ready to cook.

Heat the grill on the surface-of-the-sun setting. Make sure that it is clean too (I hate fish flavored pork chops). Grill the chops for 3-4 minutes on each side, rotating once to get those great looking crosshatches. The goal is to get as much caramelization as possible, without overcooking the meat. Unless you have a really impressive grill cook them with the top closed. When they are nice and crispy and brown, turn them onto the bone end, reducing the heat to medium-low, and roast for another 10 minutes with the top closed. I turn off the burner directly under the chops so there is no chance of burning. Let rest for another 5 minutes before serving.

This recipe can be increased to as many chops as your grill can hold. Just make sure that the ratio of salt and sugar remains the same.

digg this
posted by Open Blogger at 04:30 PM

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