Kristina from GirlGoneGrits.com recently reached out to local food bloggers for help in coming up with recipes for the wife of a California gentleman who has been placed on an extremely restrictive diet.
Working from a very short list of allowed ingredients (i.e., chicken or pork but not halibut or tuna, only 45 grams of carbs/day and no dairy whatsoever), the challenge was to come up with something both highly flavorful and densely nutritional. Additionally, I wanted the recipe to be both easily sourced and fairly simple to follow..
For the Brine
1 oz (by weight) coarse sea salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican if available)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin (freshly toasted and ground if practical)
1/4 teaspoon mesquite liquid smoke (optional)
2 cups filtered water
Place water into a saucepan and heat to a rapid boil. Remove from heat, add salt and stir until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and allow to stand until completely cooled. Refrigerate until chilled.
For the Chops (allow 1 per person)
8 oz bone-in lean, center cut pork chop (I’m using my favorite Red Wattle chops from Farmhouse Delivery)
Trim chops of most cover fat (diet restriction) and place in a dish or zipper bag along with chilled brine. If chops are thin, refrigerate 2-3 hours. If thick, refrigerate 3-4 hours. In either case, turn chops over about halfway through the brining period. In addition to adding flavor, the brining process will cause the chops to take on as much as 15% water weight, helping to ensure a tender, moist product.
For the Salsa
2/3 cup cored (and optionally peeled) fresh apple, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/3 cup red onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/4 cup fresh tomato, cut into 1/2 inch dice (yellow heirlooms are especially nice)
1/2 small jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, torn
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or 1 teaspoon raw cider vinegar
a pinch of sea salt and black pepper to taste
a pinch of unrefined sugar if needed (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, cover and refrigerate 2 hours.
Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry on all surfaces (don’t squeeze). Allow to stand while you prepare the heat source (outdoor grill or indoor grill pan [easiest]).
Sear meat over medium-high heat until well-marked, about 2-3 minutes per side. Stand chops on end and place in a 400 degree oven until just done (about 10 minutes for thick-cut chops). If using outdoor grill, stand chops on end away from flames, cover and finish until just done (the goal is to allow most of the remaining fat to render and drip away [diet restriction]).
Remove chops from heat and allow to stand a full 5 minutes before serving with the crisp and cool apple salsa.