Pork Chops & Old Fashioned Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

2017-03-27 06.38.33I was almost prepared for dinner tonight. I remembered to defrost the pork chops. That’s as far as it went. I was a little under the weather today having had an asthma attack this morning and just wanted to do nothing — I did sit at my laptop and handled some communications with clients, but beyond that, I didn’t move much. So, when 5:30 rolled around and my son got home, and 5:45 rolled around and my hubby got home, I realized I needed to do something for dinner.

I decided to do a quick brine on the pork chops, then cook them on high heat for tender and tasty chops. But I needed a vegetable. I had a container of baby spinach and kale in the fridge and was going to wilt it down, but, if you’ve ever wilted spinach, you know you need about 4C raw per person, and I didn’t have that. So, I rethought my options and reached back into the recesses of my brain, and remembered a bacon dressing my mother made when I was young and served over spinach. I hated it. I didn’t like spinach, raw or cooked and even though I did like bacon, because let’s be real, who doesn’t, I didn’t like salad enough to eat it with any frequency.

So, today I pulled out the old fashioned bacon recipe and tweaked it to suit my family’s taste. This dressing is similar to German Potato Salad dressing and you’ll find adaptations everywhere using malt vinegar, or dijon mustard, or in this case, red pepper flakes which is a great flavor twist with the tartness of the vinegar, saltiness of the bacon and sweetness of the sugar. I also cooked the onions into the dressing which is my preference. The original recipe calls for scallions mixed into the greens.

Anyway you make it, it can be a great side salad or delicious meal.

This recipe would normally serve 4, but my son loves salad, so it served 3.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 to 6 oz. baby spinach, kale or combination, washed and wrapped in a tea towel and put into the fridge to crisp
  • 2 to 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and dice or sliced
  • 5 to 6 strips of bacon, cooked on the stove top to crispy, set aside on papertowels to crisp.
  • 3 tbsp. of bacon grease reserved from the cooked bacon
  • 1/4C diced red onion
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1/4C vinegar (I used a combo of white and red wine vinegars)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. red chili pepper flakes (Optional)
  • Add the spinach, egg and crumbled bacon in a bowl. In the frypan that you cooked the bacon, heat the bacon grease and add the red onion. Stir it for a minute or two until it softens, then add the sugar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, water and vinegar. Stir it over the heat until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove the pan from the stove and carefully pour the hot dressing over the spinach, egg and bacon, toss and serve immediately.

  • 2017-03-27 06.36.19

BRINED PORK CHOPS: A little bit of info here. Pork chops are one of those meats which are really difficult to cook perfectly, and it’s not usually the fault of the chef. It is a meat best served tenderized in some fashion, and I’ve posted other recipes where I’ve brined them in buttermilk. But, today, as you heard, I wasn’t quite so prepared. I made a quick brine and let them brine for only 30 minutes, though you could let them soak up to 4 hours. More than that and the meat will begin to break down and actually get more tough rather than tender. Also, I prefer bone-in chops. They take a little longer to cook, are a little more difficult to eat, but the bone adds a lot of flavor to the meat.

BRINE:

  • 1C boiling water
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 2C cold water

Dissolve the salt and sugar in the boiling water, add the garlic, peppercorns, bayleaf and 2 cups of cold water (this is so the brine doesn’t cook the chops).

Put the pork chops in a glass pan and cover with the brine. Cover with plastic wrap and put into the fridge for 1/2 hour to 4 hours. If you have 6 or 8 chops, just double the brine. You do want the meat totally covered in a single layer. If you’re brining for up to 4 hours, you can also do it in a large zip lock, just make sure to turn them periodically so they brine evenly.

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Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper on each side. Don’t worry — they won’t be too salty.2017-03-27 06.21.27

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and make sure your shelf is in the middle of the oven.

Use an oven safe pan, large enough to hold the chops in a single layer. I used cast iron, but any oven safe pan will do. Now you have two choices. You can heat the pan in the oven as it preheats, or, you can add a tbsp. or two of olive oil and heat the pan on the stove top, which I prefer to do. I am very forgetful and have on more than one occasion burned my hand grabbing the handle of pan heated in the oven, so I don’t do it that way anymore. This is literally an example of the old adage, “burn me once shame on you; burn me twice shame on me.”

Heat the oil in the pan until it starts to shimmer. You can put your palm over the pan, about 1″ from the bottom and feel the heat. You should not be able to hold your hand there. You want the pan to be about 400 degrees.

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Put the pork chops into the pan and let them brown for 3 minutes. Turn them over and put the pan directly into the preheated oven, on the middle shelf. They will cook quickly, 6 to 10 minutes at most, depending on the thickness. You want the internal temp to be about 130 to 135 when you take them out of the oven. You then want to let them rest and they will be a perfect 145 when you serve them. Any higher than that and they will be shoe-leather. So, if after 6 minutes your instant read thermometer isn’t at 130, put them back in but check them every minute or two, at most.

These are beautiful to look at, savory in flavor and tender. Enjoy.

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