Grilled Pork Chops with Cane Vinegar Gastrique

My new recipe for Grilled Pork Chops with Cane Vinegar Gastrique includes the use of a Coffee Brine with Herb Salt. The brine makes the pork chops super-tender and super-juicy.

The Cane Vinegar Gastrique is an adaptation of a recipe Ample Bites saw in Lousiana Cookin’ magazine. The Cane Vinegar Gastrique adds a complex sweet, acidic note to the dish. When making the gastrique take care to do the reduction just prior to serving and be careful not to reduce the liquid to far or you will end up with a very tasty caramel.

Quarter the nectarines and soak them in the Pickled Red Onions for about 30 minutes before grilling them.

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Grilled Pork Chops with Cane Vinegar Gastrique
(Mark Kelly, 2014)

4 cups black coffee
1/2 cup Herb Salt (see previous Ample Bites post)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 bone-in pork chops
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cane vinegar (such as Steen’s)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 grilled nectarines, coarsely chopped, for garnish
Pickled Red Onions, for garnish (see previous Ample Bites post)

24 hours before grilling prepare the brine by combining the coffee, Herb Salt and thyme in a gallon zip-top plastic bag. If the coffee is still hot add ice and allow the brine to return to room temperature. Add the pork chops to the brine and refrigerate. Remove the pork chops from the brine about 1 hour before grilling. Rinse the pork chops under cold water and pat dry. Just before grilling, brush the pork chops on both sides with olive oil and season one side with black pepper.

Heat grill to medium-high for direct cooking. Grill the nectarines, cut side down, until grill marks appear. Set aside and allow to cool before chopping.

In a sauce pan over medium heat combine the cane vinegar, honey, and agave. Reduce gastrique, stirring constantly until reduced by half. Let stand to cool.

Grill the pork chops, peppered side up, for 3 to 4 minutes per side.

To serve, plate one pork chop with a topping of grilled nectarines and Pickled Red Onions and drizzle with the Cane Vinegar Gastrique.

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Eggplant-Crawfish Pirogues

Ample Bites has had a hankering for crawfish for quite sometime and I finally did something about it. I order crawfish tail meat from www.cajungrocer.com and put them into a new recipe that I found in Louisiana Cookin’ magazine and adapted.

Eggplant-Crawfish Pirogues combine several of my favorite ingredients – crawfish tail meat, eggplant, jalapeno pepper and, of course, garlic. A pirogue is a flat-bottom boat used in the bayous of the South and peeled and hollowed-out eggplant bears a strong resemblance to the real thing.

This dish is really very easy to make. The most complicated part of the recipe is breading and frying the eggplant boats before stuffing. The crawfish was precooked prior to shipping. The vegetables take but a few minutes to chop. They soften, simmer and then stand prior to stuffing the crawfish and vegetable mixture into the pirogues. Once stuffed, the eggplant bakes for 10 – 15 minutes and is served immediately. I accompanied mine with some homemade jalapeno-cheddar corn bread muffins and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce.

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Eggplant-Crawfish Pirogues
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Louisiana Cookin’, March/April 2013)

Serves 6

3 medium eggplants, peeled and halved lengthwise
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
¼ cup seeded and chopped jalapeno
½ cup seeded and chopped green bell pepper
¾ cup seeded and chopped red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ pounds cooked crawfish tail meat
4 ½ tsp, Kosher salt, divided
4 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ tsp cayenne pepper, divided
4 ½ tsp panko bread crumbs
Canola oil for frying
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 cup fat free milk
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Starting from the center of each eggplant half, scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1-inch shell. Chop flesh and set shells aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add onion, peppers, and garlic; cook about 5 minutes or until softened. Reduce heat to low and cover pan. Cook stirring frequently, for about 25 minutes or until vegetables are very soft and beginning to brown. Add chopped eggplant, crawfish, 1 ½ teaspoons each salt and pepper and ½ teaspoon cayenne; cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in breadcrumbs and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside. In a large Dutch oven, pour oil to a depth of 2 inches, and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350F.

Meanwhile in a shallow dish, combine flour, garlic powder, remaining salt and pepper and cayenne. Into another shallow bowl, pour milk. Dip each eggplant boat into milk and then dredge in flour. Fry shells in batches in the hot oil, turning occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

Spoon crawfish mixture into fried eggplant shells and transfer to foil-lined baking sheet. Top with parmesan cheese and bake 10 – 15 minutes until heated through and the eggplant is tender. Serve immediately.

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