Sunday Dinner, Quick Brined Porkchops and Roasted Kabocha Squash

Sunday Dinner, Brined Pork Chops and Roasted Kabocha Squash
Pan roasted chops and kabocha squash

For a very long time, I did not like porkchops, they were dry and tough and about as appetizing as shoe leather. Then I had a brined pork chop, and my perception of them took a 180. Now they are succulent and juicy and the perfect canvas for any set of flavors. This brine is nice because the meat needs just 2 hours to be ready.

It is Sunday night and I was in the mood to prepare a meat and potatoes kind of meal. So I hit the grocery store in the morning to see what looked good and two things jumped out at me, thick cut bone-in pork chops and kabocha squash. I have a Finger Lakes (that is Upstate New York) Pinot Noir I've been dying to try, and I figured this meal would be the perfect accompaniment.

2 bone-in pork chops (the thicker the better)
1 small kabocha squash
olive oil
grapeseed oil
salt/pepper to taste

For the brine:
3/4 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup kosher salt (DO NOT use regular white table salt!)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp dried shallots
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp whole allspice
1/2 tsp juniper berries

Put the vinegar, salt, sugar, shallots, peppercorns, allspice and juniper into a small pot and bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. 

Add a cup of ice to cool the mixture down.

Put the brine in a ziplock bag (or vessel of your choice) to brine the chops. Add your chops to the brine and soak them for 2 hours (turning or rotating the chops so they get equally submerged in the brine.)

After an hour, preheat the oven to 400 F and wash the squash (the skin is edible).

Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds with a spoon and cut the squash into large chunks and place on a sheet pan. Toss the squash in olive, salt, and pepper and roast for about 30 minutes, until the squash is tender and there are lovely brown caramelized spots.

In case you don't know what a kabocha squash looks like.
Cut in half.
Ready to go in the oven.
While the squash is roasting, preheat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Pull the pork chops out of the brine, rinse them quickly and pat dry. Add a little grapeseed (or vegetable) oil to the pan and when it shimmers, add the pork chops. Brown on the first side (about 5 minutes) then flip over. After 2 minutes, place the entire pan with the chops on the top rack of your oven (where you are roasting the squash) for another 5-10 minutes (depending how "done" you like your chops.)

Thick-cut chops ready to go in the oven.
Pull the chops out of the oven and let them rest for another 5-10 minutes while the squash finishes cooking. Serve with a delicious glass of wine and enjoy!

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