This was an idea that started as a salad, grew butterfly wings, and transformed into something magical.
On the first go around, the idea was very vague–“hmm…pork would taste good with rhubarb and dried fruit”. I pounded out pieces of pork tenderloin, gave them a quick sear, and topped them with an arugula salad dressed with a rhubarb vinaigrette and a smattering of dried figs and pecans. The flavors were good but it just didn’t pack as much punch as I’d imagined. I wanted amazing, not meh.
Thankfully, I spotted a recipe on another food website that made me decide to give these ingredients a second shot together. It was lamb chops with rhubarb-raisin agrodoloce. Excellent, it was basically the flavors I had imagined working so well together made into a dish that made more sense. I combined my ingredients list with the method used in the recipe and came out with a winner. Meh? No way! I got the “amazing” I’d been after.
This is the kind of dish I’ll probably make over and over because it delivers big results with minimal effort. Does that make me sound lazy or smart? I’m opting for the latter. I’ll walk you through making it.
I went for thick, bone-in pork chops and brined them so they’d stay nice and juicy. If you think brining seems like a chore, think again. 1 extra bowl and 1 hour of brine-time is a small price to pay for succulent grilled pork chops.
When the pork is reaching the end of its hour-long brine, light the grill and put the rhubarb compote together. Dice and sauté a shallot. Cut a few stalks of rhubarb into 2 inch long chunks and add them into the skillet along with quartered dried figs, brown sugar, and a splash of vinegar. Carefully toss together and cook until the rhubarb has softened but before it becomes mush. Stir in plenty of crushed pecans and scatter with a handful of chives. This might be the most beautiful side dish a piece of pork has ever seen.
Pull the pork out of its brine, rinse, and pat dry. Rub with a touch of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Give the chops a good sear over the hottest part of the grill, then move over and let them finish cooking on the cooler side of the grill. Pull them off and let them rest for a few minutes while you console your dog who seems to be counting up the pork chops and wondering where the heck his is.
Plate it up, marvel at how gorgeous the rhubarb is, and get in there. It’s everything you want it to be: sweet, tart, tangy, succulent, and miles from “meh”.
- 4 Bone-In Pork Chops, about 1 in. thick
- 2 Tbsp. Sugar
- 2 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
- FOR THE RHUBARB COMPOTE
- 1 medium Shallot, diced
- 5 medium stalks Rhubarb, cut in 2 in. lengths
- ½ c. Dried Figs, quartered
- 3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
- 2 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
- ½ c. Pecans, coarsely chopped
- about 1 Tbsp. chopped Chives
- Olive Oil
- Dissolve 2 Tbsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. kosher salt in a quart of cold water to make a brine for the meat. Submerge the pork chops and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Light the grill (I use charcoal). Ideally, there should be a really hot side for the initial sear and then a medium-hot side for finishing the meat.
- Remove the pork from the brine, rinse with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Rub each chop with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place chops on the hot side of the grill and get a good sear on both sides. Transfer to the cooler side to finish cooking, then remove, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Cook time will vary, depending on the thickness of your pork and the temperature of your grill, so I hesitate to give specific timings. Mine were seared about 4 minutes per side then moved to the cooler side of the grill for another 5-6 minutes for a total cook time of about 15 minutes. To eliminate the guess-work, use a meat thermometer, and remove the chop when the internal temperature is 135°.
- Meanwhile, make the rhubarb compote. Heat about 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Sauté the shallot until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the rhubarb, figs, brown sugar, and vinegar. Cook, stirring gently on occasion, until the rhubarb is tender but not falling apart, 8-10 minutes. Stir in pecans and chives. Season as necessary with salt and pepper. Serve alongside the grilled pork chops.