Thursday, September 27, 2012

Roasted Pork Chops and Rioja

I love pork, this should come as no surprise to anyone with even a passing interest in the blog, I love it cured, I love it slow cooked, I love it just about every way there is. As a child I used to look forward to dinner if Mom was pan frying pork chops, the chops would end up crispy on the outside and sweet and juicy inside with just the right fat quotient to make you want to lick your lips after finishing off the chops.

Sadly in the 1990s the agro industry decided that pork was too fat and had to be leaner and healthier, which was all well and good except that it no longer tasted like pork, it became sort of tougher chicken breast. The modern home cook has to either take out a second mortgage to buy "heirloom" pork or brine their chops to give them a fighting chance .

Brining adds moisture and allows you to cook leaner cuts at high heat without drying out the meat and is simply marinating the meat in a salt water and sugar solution for a period of time. The simplest brine uses 1/2 cup of kosher salt, 1/2 cup of sugar and a litre of hot water, dissolve the sugar and salt in the water, cool the brine and then place the chops in a large freezer bag, pour the brine over, seal and refrigerate . The longer you brine the more moisture the meat will absorb, I generally try to brine pork chops for six to eight hours, once you take the chops out of the brine wipe them dry and throw out the brining liquid. The brining liquid will  contain blood and proteins from the meat and is not safe to reuse . The only downside to brining is that if you have a low tolerance to salt then brining is not for you.

Once we have our brined chops, I prefer bone in loin chops, ready its time for seasoning, on Monday night I just used salt, not much as they absorb salt from the brine, pepper, garlic and fresh rosemary. Sear the chops at high heat for a minute or so on each side in olive oil/butter mix for colour and then pop them in a 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, the cooking time is going to vary depending on the thickness of the chops and how you like your chops done. I prefer medium so I check them at the 15 minute mark with an instant read meat thermometer, once the chops are 145 degrees they can come out of the oven and rest for 3-5 minutes while you deglaze the pan with some stock, or white wine, "montee au beurre" and then pour the reduction over the chops. Served with "smashed potatoes" and green veg it was as close as I can get to those lip smacking chops of my youth, it would have been even better had I remembered to saute the fresh cremini mushrooms I bought and add them to the pan sauce but they were delicious nonetheless.

With the chops I served a lovely Rioja that, for some bizarre reason, the BCLDB had discounted. I was out at the Mother Store on Sunday and spotted a price reduction tag on a few notable wines, not just the $1 or $2 discounts that happen monthly but the 30% off we want to get this off the shelves reductions that happen rarely. These reductions are always a crap shoot as often the wines are too old, or were just purchasing mistakes to begin with but on Sunday I noticed that the 2008 Crianza Glorioso from Bodegas Palacios in the Rioja was discounted from $17.99 down to $12.59. I am familiar with this wine, it was a staple on many of the wine lists I used to write, and since it was only 2008 and thus unlikely to be over the hill I grabbed the five bottles on the shelf, along with some other sundry bargains and headed home.

By definition a crianza wine will have spent one year in oak, in Glorioso's case new French oak, and the result is a smooth polished wine with lots of finesse. This wine is made in a more New World fruit forward style but still has lots of spice box, tar and tannins to balance the black currant, raspberry fruit flavours, the new oak gives a touch of vanilla and while the finish was not quite as long as it could have been overall the wine would have been good value at the original price and was an absolute steal at $12.50. I only wish I'd been able to find more but searches of three other stores on Tuesday were fruitless, still it was nice to enjoy a very good wine for a very reasonable price, we'll drink up the others in short notice as well I'm sure.

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