Whether you've been the victim, or the perpetrator, of dry, leathery cooked pork loin, you know exactly the family dining experience to which I allude.
It was just one short week ago that I had my first heavenly experience shopping in that 2-letter-word big box store. You know, the one that sells everything in bulk? Including the meat. I headed over to the meat department and settled on a GIANT package of pre-cut pork loin. Didn't realise they were about 1 1/2" thick. Stressful day, cooked dinner late, with little consideration as to the method of preparing said meat. I have to admit, it was one of the worst meals I've ever made. My 3 year old, carnivore that he is, ate it happily. My husband and I eyed each other with amusement as the poor child chewed and chewed.... and chewed. I was determined to remedy my reputation the following evening by preparing a deliciously moist pork chop (husband conveniently had to work late).
I love Apartment Therapy's cooking website, The Kitchn and they had the perfect solution for dry pork chops: BRINING!! Here is the link to their article.
I was using boneless pork chops (though bone-in are tastier), so the first thing I did was use a meat pounder to tenderise and thin the pieces to just under an inch. I then prepared the brine and soaked the chops for about an hour (you can do so for up to 4 hours).
1 cup boiling water
3 tbsp salt
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups cold water
1 bay leaf
Dissolve the salt in 1 cup of boiling water and then add the apple cider vinegar, bay leaf and cold water. Place pork in a shallow dish and pour the brine over it. If it doesn't completely cover, make more brine, with 1 tbsp salt per cup of water. Brining has the added benefit of bringing the meat to room temperature. When you cook meat directly out of the refrigerator, the exterior of the meat cooks faster than the interior and it becomes dry and tough by the time it is thoroughly cooked.
Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Refer to the article if you are using a cast iron skillet. I used stainless steel, so I had to add a couple of minutes to the suggested searing time.
Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Rub on some olive oil and season with salt (yes, more salt!) and pepper. For pork, I also really like Simply Organic "Grind to a salt."
Heat a little olive oil in an oven safe pan and sear the pork on one side for approximately 4 minutes, enough to brown the underside. Flip the meat and immediately transfer the entire pan to the 400 degree oven for 6-10 minutes. I left it in for 6 minutes but feel it probably could have stayed in for another minute or two. I had taken it out when the internal temperature reached 150 deg F because it continues to cook once it comes out of the oven. However, I prefer pork chops to not have any traces of pink and so will probably wait until the internal temperature reaches 160 deg F next time. We're not really patient enough to let the meat sit for a few minutes anyway!
If you ARE the patient type, remove the pork once the internal temperature of the thickest part reaches 145 degrees. Place on a separate dish and tent with foil. I like to reduce some dry white wine in the pan to pour over the pork.
Serve with a salad and bulgur wheat (for a healthier alternative to rice). Stonewall Kitchen's delicious Vidalia and Fig sauce pairs very nicely with pork.
(Images coming soon)