Brined Pork Chops and Israeli Cous Cous

Brined Pork Chops and Israeli Cous Cous
Pork chops, Israeli cous cous and roasted asparagus: Sunday supper done right.

Making pork chops tonight... using the induction burner and trying a new brine.

I always brine my porkchops, I find it makes them juicier and more flavorful, especially since they can be tricky to cook to the perfect doneness. Please forgive the fact that I am not giving you formal "recipes," dinner tonight was a creation based on buying porkchops and asparagus because both looked good at the store, and feeling my way through the rest. I didn't follow a recipe, but instead, my gut. Tonight I tried a brine using water (2 quarts), kosher salt (1/2 cup), dark brown sugar (1/2 cup), hickory syrup (1/4 cup, you can easily substitute maple syrup), juniper berries (1 tblsp, crushed). black peppercorns (1 tblsp, crushed), 2 cloves of garlic and 2 bay leaves. I boiled everything together to dissolve the sugar and salt and let the flavors meld. It ended up making more brine than I needed, but I went ahead and let my thick cut chops brine for 4 hours.

I pulled the chops out, dried them off, and seared them in my cast iron skillet, 4 minutes of searing per side, then finished them in the oven, 12 minutes at 325 F.

As soon as I put the chops in the oven, I started the cous cous. I began by sweating half an onion, one small carrot and one rib of celery in a saucepan. Once the onions were soft, I turned the heat up and tossed in the cous cous. After toasting the cous cous for just a minute, I added a mixture of wine and water, brought the mixture to a boil, then put the lid on the pan and tossed it in the oven. That whole process went by quickly, so when I put it in the oven I had ten minutes left on my pork chop timer. I've got to say, the little portable induction burner is a champ, with way more power than my standard electric range.

In ten minutes, the chops were done and my cous cous was lovely and tender. I added a sprinkle of parsley and popped the lid on to keep it warm until time to eat.

All that was left was to toss the asparagus in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 450 for just 5 minutes and dinner is done!

My usual brine is mustard and vinegar based. I actually like the juniper and hickory syrup flavor tonight, but next time will use less water. Even with 4 hours of brining, the chops were juicy, but seemed a tad under seasoned to me.

Wine pairings... I drank a lovely simple Pinot from Burgundy tonight with the pork chops. The simplicity of the preparation and lack of rich sauces make me crave a low tannin and high acid red. Several wines fit the bill, but simple Burgundy or Beaujolais would be my first choice. A fruity Barbera would be welcome here too, or even a rose if that floats your boat. Other minor grapes, like Monastrell from Spain (aka Mourvèdre) would be welcome with this dinner as well.

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