Brine-Cured Pork Chops with Warm Red Cabbage Salad

I love a cruciferous vegetable.  I do.  And I particularly love a cruciferous vegetable with toasted walnuts and crumbled goat cheese on top of it.  Even better is a cruciferous vegetable alongside a brined pork chop.  

It's the middle of winter.  It's time to warm up some of those belly-filling vegetables and toss them together with some sweet, crisp fruit and drizzle some vinegar and oil atop of it all.  I love The Greens cookbook--while often the list of ingredients is long, Deborah Madison always comes through with a rockstar effort.  And the lovely surprise with this salad is the marjoram.  Don't skip it or substitute.  Yes, oregano would be yummy, but marjoram adds that special twist of flavor that is identifiable and unexpected.

The recipe for the pork chops, from Chez Panisse Cafe and Alice Waters, fared a little worse.  It was confusingly written (and I tried to clarify below), and it turned out I couldn't get the pork chops to cook thoroughly just on the stove top.  So I warmed up the oven, and put them in the oven for a little while.  What's lovely about the pork chop is that it is getting leaner (but not meaner), and it doesn't take too long in the oven--and it was oh so juicy.

Brining the pork chop, the French way according to the headnote in the recipe, makes it quite salty and juicy--sort of like a ham.  We ate only one pork chop--those suckers were big--and the next night I diced up the remaining chop and used it to flavor a pot of brown lentils. All of this just feels so belly-warming, so mid-January.

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Brine-Cured Pork Chops
Adapted from Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook
6-8 servings

1 cup salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 bay leaves
A few peppercorns
1 clove
6 allspice berries
2 small dried chili peppers
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon dried thyme
3 pounds boneless pork loin or shoulder
Optional: chopped parsley and garlic

1.      Pour 2-1/2 gallons cold water in a large, nonreactive container that will hold the meat and brine. Stir in the salt and sugar. Slightly crush and add the bay leaves, peppercorns, clove, allspice, and chili peppers. Add the garlic and thyme. Add the pork and put a plate on top to keep the meat submerged. Refrigerate for 5 days or more.  Pork chops will take 2-3 days.  [Keep this in mind, as I brined the pork chops for 5 days--hey, I got behind... and they were salty.  But the over-bined pork chops were superb in lentils the next day.]

2.       Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. If you're using roast pork loin for about 1 hour or grill over a medium fire.  For pork chops [which is what we used] brown them in a cast-iron pan; then put them ins 450 degree oven for 7-10 minutes or until the interior registers 125 degrees on the thermometer. [The cookbook suggests that pork chops will cook very quickly, about 1 minute per side.  We did not find that to be the case and added the oven roasting]. Finish with a good fistful of chopped parsley and garlic if you wish.

Warm Red-Cabbage Salad
Adapted from The Greens Cookbook

4-6 Servings

3/4 cup walnut or pecan pieces
2 teaspoons walnut or olive oil
salt and pepper
1 red cabbage
2 crisp red apples  [The recipe calls for 1, but 2 is definitely better]
1 clove garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3-4 ounces goat cheese, broken into large pieces
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon marjoram, finely chopped [use this under utilized herb; it tastes so good]

1.   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the nuts with the oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 5-7 minutes until fragrant. Let cool.

2.  Quarter the cabbage and remove the core. Cut cabbage into thin strips no longer than 3 inches.

3.  Cut the apple into six wedges, remove the core, then cut the wedges lengthwise into thin fans.

4.  Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the balsamic vinegar and the garlic, stirring briefly. Add the onion and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes until the cabbage softens and brightens in color. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

5.  Briefly toss cabbage with apple slices, herbs, nuts, and goat cheese and serve immediately.


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