When we first saw the February issue of Bon Appétit, we both assumed we’d end up making a pasta dish. Our shared love of pasta is well documented, and this month’s cover story just looked so dang good. After some narrowing down, tho, we settled on a possible three dishes: the ricotta gnudi for its potential in both the realms of deliciousness and epic kitchen fails, the rosti with fried potatoes because it seemed like a total tasty gimmie, and the pineapple pork chops. We decided to go with the pork chops, since neither of us cooks with pork very often (excepting other Bon experiments, of course) and we’d both never cooked chops—well, never bone–in for Laura, and any kind for Jessica. Turns out, we couldn’t have picked a better recipe to advance our pork savvy.
Jessica’s Take: This was a definite winner for me. I ended up making it at Hal’s house, since I had gotten him a fancy chef’s knife for Valentine’s Day (romance, folks) and didn’t feel that any of my knives were up to the task of taking down a pineapple. He took one bite and said, “can you make this again?” I can, and I will. The combo of sweetness from the pineapple, spice from the jalapeño, and whatever the heck is in fish sauce added up to a taste we both really liked. The notes in the recipe mention that enzymes in the pineapple tenderize the meat, and I think that plus the marinading liquid kept the pork (I went with boneless butterflied, since the bone-in at my store looked caveman style huge) moist enough to stand up to the little bit of extra cooking time you might have if you happen to be unsure about how you can tell that grilled pork is done enough…
The recipe calls for setting some of the marinade aside for “dipping sauce,” but the ingredient amounts made me skeptical, even tho I was reducing the number of chops from four to two. Texting back and forth on our shared prep night, Laura and I agreed that doubling the liquid—2 tablespoons of soy sauce and one of fish sauce in the original recipe—seemed like the way to go. I kept the other ingredient measurement pretty loose, adding maybe more than the required fourth of a pineapple due to some chopping carried away-ness and a little more cilantro to round out the extra liquid. I didn’t think that the saved and uncooked marinade added much as a dipping sauce, but poured over rice, the more raw flavors made a great contrast to the grilled pineapple pieces.
Here’s something important I learned whilst making this recipe: grilling the heck out of a mixture that includes sliced jalapeños might not be the best idea ever, especially if you’re not a fan of coughing a lot and having your eyes water. It wasn’t that bad, but we were definitely feeling the jalapeño smoke enough for me to try and fish all the pieces out so I could let the meat and pineapple stay on the grill a little longer. Something to keep in mind. When I make this again, I might try and obsessively remove the jalapeños before throwing the marinade on the grill and then add them back in towards the end—I really liked the slightly charred pineapple, but could do without the accompanying slight pepper poisoning.
One unlooked for bonus of making a recipe with pineapple is that if you happen to be dating someone with a really insanely comprehensive liquor collection and the skills to match, you may suddenly find yourself drinking a spiffy bourbon and pineapple cocktail while you take care of the grill pan. Hal came up with something he called the “Quick Escape” while I was poking at the pork and wondering what to do about smoking jalapeños, and he was nice enough to share the recipe. If you don’t happen to have the same ingredients and brands, I’m betting you could make something with similar ingredients that would be plenty tasty.
Laura’s Take: The night I made the marinade, I was struck by a terrible case of the lazies. All I wanted to do was have a beer, eat some Doritos, and not do dishes. My chops were already two days old, though, so I wasn’t comfortable procrastinating any longer. I decided to see just how easy-breezy I could make this recipe. I’d set myself up for success by purchasing fresh cut pineapple rather than a whole one. My next and best move was to whirl all of the marinade ingredients in the food processor and be done with it. I puréed everything except the fish sauce until the mixture was the consistency of tomatillo salsa. (I left out the fish sauce because I don’t particularly like the taste. In my lazy state, I couldn’t be troubled to expand my horizons.)
By the next night, I had my energy back. I roasted a couple of sweet potatoes and mashed them with butter, cilantro, salt, and juice of a lime. I pulled the chops from the marinade, wiped off the excess salsa, and grilled them on my electric panini press/griddle/indoor grill. I didn’t have the same pepper gas problem that Jessica did because I didn’t grill any of the marinade (I’ve learned that this kind of marinade doesn’t do well on my little grill—it prevents the meat from searing). When the pork was done, I made a pretty plate by covering the chops with the reserved pineapple salsa. The pork was tender and moist and paired perfectly with the bright, sweet, and salty pineapple mixture, but I should not have topped the quickly-cooling chop with so much cold sauce. The flavors and textures were delicious, but it got too cold too fast. This probably would not have been a problem if it were the summer and these chops were served hot off the charcoal, but it’s February and my kitchen is drafty and things get cold fast (especially when one must first take a few photos). Operator error aside, this was a fresh, tangy dish that I will make again to brighten up what’s left of winter.
Final Thoughts: Another keeper! This is a simple recipe that is ideal for a weeknight meal, as long as you’re organized enough to prepare the marinade the night before. We each toyed with the recipe a bit to suit our needs and it adapted very well, which is always nice on a weeknight, when you don’t know how much time or energy or patience you might have.
You can find the recipe on the Bon‘s website and in the February 2013 issue of the magazine.
* Unable to resist pasta’s siren song, Jessica (with the help of two awesome friends) also made orecchiette with kale and breadcrumbs from the February Bon. It was tasty, and a great recipe to make with help, but maybe a little too involved for the eventual payoff.
Bonus “Quick Escape” Pineapple Cocktail Recipe:
2 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1/2 oz Kalani Coconut Liqueur
1/2 oz Amaro Montenegro
1/2 oz Lime Juice
2 Dashes Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters
1/2 oz Demerara Syrup
2-3 Pieces of Pineapple
Combine pineapple, Demerara Syrup, and Kalani in mixing glass. Muddle pineapple. Add rest of ingredients. Shake with ice. Strain over cube or crushed ice (preferred) filled rocks glass. Garnish with piece of pineapple on rim.