Pesto-Marinated Pork Chops

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Nov 30, -0001 12:00 AM
Saturday March 5, 2011

I love pork chops. I ate pork chops a lot growing up but we usually only cooked them one of two ways: Either grilled and lathered in barbecue sauce out of a squeeze bottle, or pan fried (electric skillet) with onions and mushrooms with pan gravy. The majority of the time the chops we cooked were bone-in sirloin chops, which had great flavour from the fattiness and could be quickly cooked or slow cooked for fall-off-the-bone tender.

These days I still eat a fair amount of pork, but I tend to steer towards leaner cuts like tenderloins, loin roast and loin chops. Of these I really like using bone-in, centre-cut loin chops, which have lean meat with an edge of cap fat, and a little T-bone. Just like with a piece of beef, this T-bone cut of chop contains a small piece of tenderloin and a larger section of the loin (i.e. striploin steak). I prefer the bone-in chops over simple loin chops as there is the extra bonus of the tenderloin meat and the flavour and juiciness you get from the bone, because the meat in around the bone of the chop is really the best part at the end. When cooking these lean centre-cut chops, however, there are a couple of rules of thumb to ensure that the end product is a tender, juicy and flavourful piece of meat. Number one is not to overcook the chop, a very common mistake as there has been a notion for years that you have to cook pork to death. I'm looking to cook my chops so that they have a slight pink hue in the centre and that the juices run clear. There is no braising or slow cooking this lean-cut. I'm looking to give them a quick sear on each side through either a skillet or on the grill and letting the meat rest for a few minutes in a warm oven or with the grill turned off so that it cooks just right in the centre. The second rule is to subject the pork to either a marinade (which will flavour and tenderize the meat) or a brine (a solution usually containing salt, sugar and other spices and seasoning such as cider or honey that will suck out some of the water in the meat and replace it with salty, seasoned liquid, thus making for a well-seasoned chop inside and out).

For this recipe I am using a super simple marinade that can be either made from scratch or can come from a jar. I got this recipe after seeing it on one of my favourite shows, "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" (Food Network) when a restaurant out in the western US was doing pesto-marinated pork chops as part of their breakfast/brunch menu as an alternative to steak and eggs. I saw it and had to try it. The result is deliciousness that works for either breakfast with eggs or as a dinner entree. It really can't be easier to make as the marinade does a lot of the work for you.

Pesto Marinated Centre-Cut Pork Chops

Centre-cut pork chops (about 3/4 inch-thick cut works great)
Good quality jar of pesto (a blend of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil
Oil for sauteing
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

The day/night before you want to eat these chops place the pork chops and enough pesto to coat in a glass dish. I find the best way to coat the meat is to get your hands in there and massage the pesto around the chops. Cover them up and refrigerate them. In the morning give them another turn.

About a 1/2 hour before you are ready to cook, remove the pork from the fridge and let them come up to room temperature. To cook, heat a little canola or peanut oil in a large saute pan over a medium-high heat and season each side of the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Sear the chops on one side until nicely browned, about 4 minutes, and cook on the other side for about 3 minutes. I usually like to turn the chops on end with my tongs as well so the thin piece of fat cap can sear and render. Remove from the pan and let rest in a 250 degree oven for 3-4 minutes. Cooking time will be very dependent on the thickness of the chops and I mostly rely on the look, feel and smell of the pork. My senses never seem to let me down when cooking meat and this comes with practice. The best way to get good at it is to take mental notes on how the chops feel when you give them a little press.

For dinner I like to serve these with some steamed broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes and they are great with fried eggs and some hash browns and toast. If you would like to have a sauce to go with these, simply deglaze your saute pan with a little chicken stock, scrape off the browned bits and add a few dollops of pesto. Combine and you have a rich, delicious pesto sauce. Bon appetite!

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About Me...The Wicked Newfoundlander
I'm originally from Newfoundland, Canada, and very proud of it! I moved to upstate New York in 2007, and I spend much of my time working and playing throughout New England. Besides my wife, our dog and hockey, I'm passionate about food. I love to cook and create great tasting food. I also love tasting and critiquing food, and comparing regional cuisine (notably Newfoundland and New England dishes).