The other white meat: Explore the wonderful world of pork
Special to the Appeal
Today we will explore the world of pork. There are many misconceptions regarding pork with the most prevalent being the temperature to which it is to be cooked. The days of having to cook pork products to death are long gone. You can cook to whatever temperature you personally like it to be. I like pork (and beef) cooked to medium doneness or approximately 120 degrees in the center. This allows the natural juices to remain and leaves you with a succulent, tasty flavor.
Buying pork in the markets today gives you some new options. Pork farmers are experimenting with old breeds (heirlooms) or pure breeds. The reason for this is that about 50 years ago the farmers started to cross breed pigs so as to have a very lean non-fatty product. This was back when the school of thought was that you had to cook pork well done or dry. With regulations today and the school of thought that we have now that process is out the window. So at most top notch butchers you can find Berkshire pork and Kabuto (a Japanese breed that is a direct descendant of a black pig). There is more natural marbling thus more juices. I recommend searching out these particularly high quality hogs.
My favorite pork cut is a chop in the style of a porterhouse with the strip loin and filet on the bone as it would be if you were having a porterhouse steak. Cooking these takes the same care as cooking a steak on the barbeque. I like my chops cut one and a half inches thick and seasoned with kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
When cooking pork chops I have the barbeque at medium-high temperature (425 to 450 degrees). Place the chops on the grill for two and a half minutes then rotate them a quarter of a turn and cook another two and a half minutes. Turn them over and repeat the process. Then I like to set the chops to the side of the grill and let them rest for about 10 minutes. It is really important that the area where you place them to rest is not over any direct heat but is in an area where they will receive radiant heat from the flames. Check them with a meat thermometer – 120 to 125 degrees in the center is what I consider perfect.
Please note that if you are wondering why no garlic in the seasoning for the pork it is because we will be putting an apricot maple syrup glaze on them about five minutes before serving so that it can seep into the meat.
I am going to give you a recipe for a seared spinach white bean with applewood smoked bacon medley to place the pork chops on when serving. When making the spinach medley you have two choices. You can buy precooked white beans from your favorite health food store (I sometimes get mine from DuBois’s who has a great selection of precooked canned white beans) or you can cook your own. I much prefer cooking my own so that I can dictate how al dente I want them to be. It takes about one to one and a half hours to cook depending on how much you are preparing so leave lots of time. You can cook them ahead and refrigerate until needed as they will hold up for three or four days.
When choosing spinach I recommend using whole bunch and not the bagged baby spinach. The reason for this is that the bunch version is a sturdier variety and lends itself to searing or cooking much better. The preparation of this spinach takes more care but it is well worth it. The prep time will take 10 minutes from beginning to end. I recommend you do this when you are resting the chops on the grill.
BBQ pork chop with apricot glaze
4 porterhouse-style pork chops, 11/2 inches thick
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 slices applewood smoked bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1⁄2 cup apples (Granny Smith, Pippin or Fuji) sliced into 1⁄2 inch strips (peeling optional)
1 cup white beans, cooked
4 bunches spinach, cleaned and stems removed, julienne (cut into thin strips)
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste
In a 10 to 12 inch saute pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. You may need to turn your heat down some but the bacon must be crispy. Add apples and cook about 3 minutes or until they are slightly browned. Add the white beans, stir and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.
Add 2 tablespoons each of apricot preserves and maple syrup and the spinach. Cook quickly and remove from heat. This part of the cooking procedure should take only 3 to 4 minutes maximum. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place the remaining apricot preserves and maple syrup in a saucepan and warm.
When serving place the spinach mixture in the center of individual serving plates or on a large serving platter. Place the chops on top and spoon some of the warm glaze on the top of each chop. Drizzle the remainder over the spinach mixture.
You are in for a treat with this dish.
As a beverage recommendation I have two. A nice hearty Zinfandel such as the Shenandoah from Amador County or a Syrah from either Young’s Vineyard in Amador County or Stag’s Leap from Napa Valley.
As always enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!!
– Charlie Abowd is the owner and chef at Adele’s. He and his wife, Karen, have lived in Carson City since 1980. Charlie is a fourth-generation restaurateur.