Ah. The simple pleasures of warmer-weather eating. I know summer isn't here yet, not by a long shot. But to me, seventy-five degrees is seventy-five degrees, whether it's in March or August. Warmer weather means two things; the baseball season is approaching, and Our Grill Friday will be assigned heavier duty. (In the true Italian family styling, we have nicknames for everything.)
Last night, she was to handle the first serious grilling detail of the year. We do use her year-round, but in a limited capacity; winter fare calls for fewer grilled dishes other than meat. Come warmer weather, everything is grilled, and it began last night.
First up were the pork chops. Thickly-cut, pork chops sear extremely well on a medium-high grill. When glazed, they retail their moisture quite well. The lovely wife and I tried an apricot-dijon glaze. Dee-lish. The glaze is thick and tart with just a skosh of sweetness to it. The secret here is to begin grilling the chops without the glaze; just a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. We used kosher salt for the larger grain, and Indian Telicherry pepper for the robust kick it gives. Served with grilled vegetables (again, in only oil, salt, and pepper), this dish brings out the best in warm weather. We washed this down with a fairly cheap Rose (I am really growing to love rose wines; the perfect synthesis of chill and fruit.)
Thick-Cut Pork Chops with Apricot-Dijon Glaze
4-6 Pork chops, bone-in, thick-cut (1-inch thick or so)
1 cup Apricot preserves
1/2 cup dijon mustard (don't skimp here; better mustard pays off)
2 cups orange juice or pineapple juice
2 tbsp. bourbon
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the grill to medium-high. Let the grill plate heat up for 5-7 minutes. Lightly toss the chops in olive oil, then coat with salt and pepper. Place as close to the center of the grill as possible.
Meanwhile, whisk all the remaining ingredients together until well-mixed. You can add red pepper flakes or minced hot pepper (1 tbsp MAX) if you want to spice it up, but it's tight the way it stands. Just like to give options, s'all!
After 4-5 minutes, turn the chops and brush the cooked side with the glaze; coat it well without globbing it on. After 2-3 minutes, turn the chops over again and glaze the other side. Repeat this until the chops are cooked; roughly 8-12 minutes depending on the size of the chops and your heat. The name of the game here is to flip and glaze frequently. The sugars in the glaze will turn the meat a golden-brown. It looks HOT!
If possible, cook the veggies simultaneously. If your grill can't accommodate the volume of food, cook the chops first, then tent in foil; it will give the juices time to come out even more.
For dessert, more grilling. We grilled a sliced pineapple that had been soaked in butter rum. We then topped it with Italian marscapone cheese blended with Bailey's and vanilla.
Again, wicked yum.
Grilled Butter-Run Pineapple with Mascarpone-Vanilla sauce
! pineapple, sliced (and cored, if preferred)
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup dark Jamaican rum
1 pinch freshly-ground allspice
1 pinch cinnamon, if desired
1 cup mascarpone cheese
Bailey's Irish Creme to taste
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add rum and spices and whisk briskly until thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour in a shallow baking dish. Add the pineapple slices and let soak, turning occasionally, 4-5 minutes. Put on medium-heated grill and cook, flipping frequently, until golden-brown and slightly burnt, approximately 4-6 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk cheese, Bailey's, and vanilla in a bowl until well-mixed.
Remove pineapple from grill and top with cheese. Serve immediately.
As mascarpone cheese isn't all that sweet, I would imagine you could substitute a hand-made Ricotta cheese to sweeten it up a bit. I haven't tried that variation yet, but it's on my list.
Now, get out there and grill something!