If you’re looking to impress your guests with your grill skills, it’s time to think beyond steak. Pork isn’t just more sustainable, with less than half the carbon emissions of beef, according to the Environmental Working Group, it’s also just as delicious — and Sorella’s bone-in, center-cut pork chop for two is just the ticket to convince your friends of swine superiority.
Pork’s PR problem can be traced to the very ads that once touted its health benefits. Long pegged as “the other white meat,” pale pork, on the contrary, is usually a sign of it being overcooked. And according to Sorella culinary director Seth Turiansky — who is also the chef de cuisine at Michelin-starred Acquerello, Sorella’s sister restaurant – that’s just not necessary.
Pork, he says, doesn’t follow the same rules as chicken. As long as your pork comes from a clean source, he asserts, it’s perfectly safe to enjoy it a little less done than mom might have served it when you were young. Even the USDA says you can enjoy pork cooked to an internal temperature of 145ºF (aka medium), though Turiansky pushes it into even cooler territory.
“Pork can really be eaten medium-rare,” he says, which is why he pulls this chop off the grill once it hits an internal temp of 135ºF.
“Of course,” he adds, when you’re cooking pork, “medium rare looks a little different than it does on a steak.” With an interior that veers pink rather than a vibrant red, a less-well-done pork chop nevertheless translates to one essential element: juiciness.
If you’re going to cook your pork medium or medium-rare, you want to be sure you know where it’s coming from. Sorella sources its pork from Llano Seco, a sixth-generation ranch in Chico devoted to sustainability. Just 5% of Llano Seco’s more than 17,000 acres are actually cultivated; the vast majority are instead dedicated to conservation and agriculture easements.
Once you’ve found a quality pork purveyor, it’s time to order your chop: a real behemoth weighing in at nearly a pound. Ask for the butcher to leave a big cap of fat on the chop, the way that Llano Seco does for Sorella.
“It’s really clean, white fat,” says Turiansky. “Some people are afraid to eat it, but it’s the most flavorful, delicious part of the pork chop.”
Once you’ve brined the chop and let it air dry in the fridge for a day, it’s time to grill this bad boy and serve it up. Turiansky notes that carving is a breeze if you ask the butcher to remove the chine, aka the spinal column bone. With this essential step carried out ahead of time, once the pork is cooked, “all you have to do is literally just follow the bone through the meat and just carve it right off.”
“Then you’ve just got that ribeye,” he says, “and you can serve the bone like that, for someone to gnaw on.”
Trust us, you’re going to want to be that someone.
Grilled Pork Chop for Two
- 1 12- to 16-ounce bone-in, center-cut pork chop, chine removed
For the brine:
- 6 3/4 cups water
- 1 2/3 cups maltose (malt syrup)
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoons fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 pinch chili flakes
- 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
Two days in advance, warm the water and dissolve the maltose. Toast the herbs and spices, then steep in the liquid for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the apple cider vinegar and then cool completely. Add the pork chop and brine overnight in the refrigerator. Air-dry one day before cooking.
Allow the pork chop to temper at room temperature. Season lightly with salt and fresh pepper, then place on pre-heated grill. After about 2-3 minutes, rotate 90 degrees to create grill marks. Repeat this step on the other side of the pork chop.
Continue to cook until the pork chop has reached an internal temperature of 135ºF. Remove the pork chop from heat and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
At Sorella, the chop is served with a house-made salsa verde made with fresh herbs and olives as well as a winter caponata made with butternut squash and eggplant, but it’s just as delicious all on its own.
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