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Restaurant-Style Pork Chops
Grilled Stove-Top
By Charlie Burke

Although unseasonably mild weather has permitted outside grilling, I doubt
that we can rely on spring-like temperatures continuing through January and
February. Apple growers here in central New Hampshire were worried that
sixty degree temperatures would cause their trees to blossom which would
spell disaster for this year’s crop, and, this being the second consecutive warm
winter, the ski and tourist industries in all three northern New England states
really need cold and snowy weather for the next three months.

If the hoped for winter weather arrives, the charcoal grill will have to wait until
spring, but we can still enjoy the smoky flavor of foods grilled at high
temperature. One of my favorite pans is also the least expensive in our kitchen.
It is a cast iron ridged grill pan which, when preheated over a high flame, chars
meat, fish and vegetables much like our outdoor grill. I sometimes put herbs
into the grooves beneath the meat or fish, and the herb scented smoke adds
subtle flavor. Rosemary works well with lamb or swordfish, and I like sage with
pork and chicken. I also like to grind coarse salt, peppercorns or other spices or
herbs to coat whatever I am grilling.

Lodge is the leading manufacturer of cast iron pans, and one like mine costs
less than thirty dollars and will last a lifetime. After purchase, the pan is washed
with soapy water and a brush. It should be dried, coated on all surfaces with
vegetable oil and placed upside down in a 350 degree oven for at least an hour
and left in the closed oven until cool. After that, soap is never used; the pan is
washed with hot water and a brush and then dried and wiped with a light
coating of oil. Properly seasoned iron pans have been passed down for
generations.

For grilling at such high temperatures, meat and fish should be at least one and
one-half inches thick, and two inch thickness is preferable. Chicken breasts
should be cooked bone in because boned breasts will become dry. Pork,
swordfish and chicken benefit from brining briefly (30 minutes in a solution
containing 2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt for each quart of water). Pork,
however, is frequently processed with similar fluid; if the label states it has
been processed then do not brine.

For two servings:

1 large 2” thick pork chop, with bone, weighing 12-16 ounces or 2 smaller chops
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons whole pepper corns
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
Vegetable oil, such as peanut or canola.
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)

Bring pork chops to room temperature (in brine if using).
Place salt, pepper corns and coriander seeds in a spice grinder or use a mortar
and pestle. Grind into a coarse powder. Dry the pork chop and lightly oil on
both sides. Evenly distribute the salt mixture on both sides and set aside.

Place the grill pan over high heat for 3 – 4 minutes and turn hood fan to high.
Sprinkle sage leaves into pan in an area slightly smaller than the chop and
immediately place the chop over the herbs. Cook, undisturbed for 3 – 4
minutes, then move chop 45 degrees to make a diamond grill pattern. At 6
minutes, turn chop and cook for 3 minutes, turn 45 degrees and cook until
temperature is 150 degrees or the meat is pink in the center. Check temperature
next to the bone, and if it is less than 150 degrees, stand chop on the bone in the
pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Remove from pan and let sit for 5 minutes
before slicing or serving. I like to serve these chops with assertive sides, such as
sautéed mushrooms, dark greens and pan fried potatoes. A full bodied red
wine matches the charred, smoky flavor of the pork.

This technique of high temperature grilling approaches those used in
restaurants, where even higher temperatures are used to get that “steak house”
charring, and is adaptable to any meat, fish or poultry normally sautéed or
grilled outside. Vegetables, such as asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms and
onions also can be cooked this way, and I frequently char radicchio to be cut up
and added to green salads as a smoky bitter accent.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
The Heart of New England
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