There’d better be some gunshots or an explosion on Hell’s Kitchen tomorrow night, or at least a high-speed motorcycle chase through the streets of Los Angeles with Gordon Ramsay and a helper monkey in a sidecar, because it is shocking how badly these Wednesday night Smackdowns are throwing off my week. Really, it’s like I’ve become unmoored in space-time. For what? Thanklessness. And you know what the worst part is? I do it to myself.
At least tomorrow (or, more likely for you when you’re reading this, tonight) is the actual actual finale. If I get to the episode and it’s some kind of prelude to the prologue to the eve of the finale, I’m going to set my television on fire. I need my Smackdown on Thursday, because then I know that the next day is Friday, which is the end of the week, which is something to which I tend to look forward. Now? Tomorrow could be any day, I have no idea. It’s very disconcerting, so much so that it’s only a degree or two below genuinely alarming.
Quoth Garth Algar: “I fear change.”
In the meantime, I was able to console myself with these sweet chipotle-glazed grilled pork loin chops with peach, radish and poblano salsa from Katy Sparks’ Sparks in the Kitchen. Despite the fact that part way through the sauce-making* process you are confronted with a pot of something that looks more than a little diarrheal, you end up with a fantastic summer dinner.
*Win your next game of Trivial Pursuit: Mt Everest Edition with this nugget: “sauce-making” is a Sherpa euphemism for boot-knocking. My irrational obsession with reading memoirs from high-altitude mountaineering expeditions is your gain!**
**Also important to note: The height of Mt. Everest has recently been revised upward from 29,028 feet to 29,035 feet. I hear those last 7 feet are KILLER.
This recipe was chosen 25% because it sounded good and 75% to satisfy Brian’s primordial need to cook meat over an open fire as often as possible. It emerges with a vengeance as soon as the weather is above 55 degrees, and the beast must be fed.
The sauce is disarmingly simple, and yet ended up delicious enough that I sucked every last meat molecule off the bone with the unstoppable force of 100 Dysons. I don’t even like pork chops that much (that is, relative to how much I love other forms of pork). Little more than brown sugar, molasses, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, pureed chipotle in adobo, dijon mustard and a little water; so very good. I don’t know how long it took her to figure out the proportions for this, but holy shit did she nail it in the end.
You know I don’t reproduce cookbook recipes when I haven’t altered them at all, but it’s not copyright infringement if you figure it out, right? Trust me, I was almost a lawyer. So here’s the list of ingredients and a list of measurements in the wrong order. Match the ingredient to the proper measurement for a delicious and completely legal barbecue sauce. Call the kids in, make a game of it. Just scroll up so they don’t see the cuss word in the last paragraph.
Wait, what cuss word? Kids, I don’t cuss and neither should you. (Wink. You’re welcome.)
Soy Sauce…………………….3 tablespoons
Brown Sugar…………………2 tablespoons
Cider Vinegar……………….4 tablespoons
Pureed Chipotle……………1/4 cup
While the sauce was simmering and reducing and later marinating the pork chops, I made the peach salsa.
It’s no secret that I really like to chop vegetables. It makes me feel strangely accomplished despite the fact that it is literally a task easily accomplished by a trained monkey, literally. If I get to finely dice peppers into tiny 1/8th-inch cubes, all the better. If I could do it while at Mt. Everest base camp I might die of happiness if the High Altitude Pulmonary Edema didn’t get me first which, let’s face it, it probably would. That, or falling into a crevasse.
This round of chopping – roughly 40 minutes total – was slightly less satisfying than normal, I think because I know it’s not really time for peaches yet and I could tell that these were less-than-ideal specimen and certainly not in any way local judging by the peaches on my tree, which are currently about the size of dwarf grapes.
I did get this in the end, so I suppose I was satisfied. I know there’s nothing inherently earth-shattering about peach salsa at this point; once you can buy it in a jar at Trader Joe’s the mystery is gone, but there was something intriguing about the radishes and poblano in this one. I am a total sucker for both radishes and poblanos, though I usually prefer them on a crusty baguette with some good butter and sea salt (radishes) or in cheese sauce (poblanos), preferably poured over smoked chicken and yellow rice. Still, I am not so fearful of change that I will not consume them in other forms. (In the case of radishes, I am also fond of this form.)
I was instructed to make the salsa an hour in advance and let it sit at room temperature for the requisite flavor-marrying. I was explicitly told NOT to put in the fridge, because this would cause excessive “weeping” of the fruit. Either this is just a lie or I had particularly maudlin peaches, because they didn’t let their countertop rest keep them from a good cathartic cry.
Although we love pork, we usually try to give our meals some semblance of balance by including some non-pork item. Katy suggested we pair this dish with her sweet corn and fava bean succotash; it sounded delicious, but fava beans are not currently easy to find. It’ll have to wait for CSA deliveries, assuming we make it past the early-June Deluge of the Leafy Greens.
Instead, we took the easy way out and ate corn on the cob. Like the peaches, it’s still early for good Jersey sweet corn, so we had to content ourselves with Mexican corn. Wrapped in foil with a little butter and tossed on the grill alongside the pork chops, it’s the perfect side dish for lazy Americans who want to think that they’re eating a vegetable.
For the record, America: Corn is not a vegetable. Also not vegetables: potatoes and ketchup (Yes, I know it has tomatoes in it, but how much ketchup are you really eating? If it’s enough to count as a serving of vegetables, you need to rethink something.) And iceberg lettuce (water masquerading as a vegetable, suitable only as an accompaniment for tacos). So yes, I know I did not truly round out the meal with the addition of corn. But it’s grilling season, which means traditional notions of the square meal are abandoned by the wayside to die slowly in the hot summer sun while we sit on our chaise lounges drinking vodka-spiked lemonade. In what other season does a hot dog with a side of macaroni salad and some potato chips count as a real meal?*
God bless the U.S.A.
*For the record: Macaroni salad dressed with mayonnaise is noxious.
I took a well-deserved break from all the chopping, nestling down into the sofa to read The Photographer*, except that I had to immediately get up and go to the backyard so I could burn my hand while taking some out-of-focus pictures of the pork chops on the grill.
*Phenomenal. Read it. Love it. I will give you a personal money-back guarantee.
It was worth it though, because this was really fucking good. I will describe precisely how good to you momentarily, using every ounce of literary creativity I posses to transport you to my dinner table, but I first wanted to emphasize with force how tasty this was: really, fucking.
I’m ignoring the corn on the cob, because if you don’t know what grilled corn on the cob tastes like you’re obviously some kind of unpatriotic anti-American communist sympathizer and I’m certainly not giving you any succor.*
The pork and the peach salsa, however: whoa. The barbecue sauce was not overwhelmingly sweet or overwhelmingly spicy from the chipotle. It’s amazingly well-balanced and was able to complement and further bring out the natural sweetness of the pork while adding a very slight kick that kept things interesting without overpowering the delicate white meat (these were loin chops). The sugar helped create a wonderful crusty glaze when the pork hit the heat. Bone-suckingly delicious.
The peach salsa was sweet but not cloying. The cilantro was herbal and fresh, the radishes were crunchy and bracing, the sweet red onion added just the right amount of bite without being too punchy, the poblano added a fragrant peppery note and its own brand of capsicum sweetness, and lime juice brightened the whole thing and helped bring the flavors together. Coupled with the sweet-and-spicy pork, it was perfect; lively but again, not overpowering. Just a good partner.
I say to you, Katy Sparks: Well played. Well played indeed.
Now if only tomorrow were Friday.
*Is it just me, or does that sound kinda unintentionally dirty?