Oven roasting concentrates the flavor of fresh garden tomatoes and gives them a caramelized flavor. They need a concentrated flavor to play off the earthy zing of Maplebrook Farm cherry-wood smoked mozzarella. When you unwrap this remarkable cheese you’ll smell what I’m talking about before you even taste it. The pork chops are soaked in a brine before grilling to make them retain juices, and to absorb the flavors of garlic, brown sugar and summer savory. The mushroom risotto flows onto the plate and the pork chops are served on top and is both sauce for the meat and starch for the meal. Crisp brocollini provides a textural counterpart to the other elements. Serve with Viognier or an oaky Chardonnay, if you prefer beer try a frosty, well-hopped IPA.
4 Pork Chops, 6 oz each (175 g)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh summer savory (15 mL)
Few grinds black pepper
1 cup water (240 mL)
1 Tbsp salt (15 mL)
2 cloves garlic, mashed and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp brown sugar (15 mL)
2 sprigs fresh summer savory
1 cup ice (6 ice cubes)
Put the water salt, garlic, brown sugar, and summer savory in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Add the ice cubes to cool it quickly. When they have melted and the brine is cool to the touch, pour into a zip lock bag, add the pork chops, and express the air so the chops are completely coated with brine. Place the bag in a shallow pan just in case it leaks and refrigerate for 8 or more hours. The salty brine will change the cell structure of the meat and allow water and flavorings to enter thereby producing a juicier chop. It’s just like sleeping with a textbook under your pillow before an exam. Osmosis is a wonderful thing.
Oven Roasted Tomatoes
1.5 lb fresh ripe tomatoes
½ tsp salt (1 mL)
Few grinds black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
Oven-roasting evaporates moisture from tomatoes, concentrates their flavor, and caramelizing that takes places provides another level of flavor. I used Prudens Purples for this recipe. These were purchased from Bean Hill Greenhouse in Elmore, Vermont firstname.lastname@example.org. Prudens Purple is a large beefsteak variety with virtually no pulp, and a dense flavor. One major difference between seasonal tomatoes you have grown, or buy at Farmers Markets, besides the flavor, is the amount of water they hold. Recipes typically call for roasting tomatoes 35 minutes at 350° F (175° C). Real tomatoes require 50 minutes or more to bring them to the same level of doneness. Check the tomatoes after 35 minutes and cook until they are colored to your liking.
Remove the hulls from the tomatoes using a tomato shark or pairing knife. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and place into a bowl. Add the salt, black pepper and olive oil. Toss to coat evenly and lay out flat on a sheet pan. Allow plenty of space between the tomato wedges. I put a piece of aluminum foil underneath to expedite cleanup. Oven-roast until done, and remove form the oven. These can be quickly reheated before serving, and is best to do so. This way you will have everything ready at the same time.
2 large shallots, finely chopped (2 Tbsp/30 mL)
4 oz Baby Bella mushrooms finely chopped, (1 cup/150 g)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (15 mL)
3 Tbsp olive oil (45 mL)
½ cup white wine (120 mL)
1 tsp salt (5 mL)
1 cup Arborio rice (190 g)
3 cups chicken stock (700 (mL)
½ cup shredded Parmesan-Reggio (2 oz/55 g)
Prepare the risotto while the tomatoes are roasting. Prepare the shallots, mushrooms, and parsley. Pour the olive oil into a small saucepan, add the prepared vegetables, and cook over low heat to evaporate the excess moisture to concentrate the flavors. This will take a good 10 minutes, stir it occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and salt. Reduce until almost no moisture is evident. Add a cup of the chicken stock, stir to combine and cook until it has absorbed almost all of the stock. Add the remaining stock and cook until there is just a little visible liquid. Stir in the Parmesan-Reggio, cover, and reserve.
Before serving you will need to add a little more liquid so the risotto flows on the plate. It should look somewhere between a sauce and rice, closer to a sauce. Have some reserved stock or water in a Pyrex measuring cup, microwave it for a half-minute, and stir into the risotto. It will probably need another quarter to third of a cup (60m to 80 mL) to bring it to the proper consistency.
1 bunch brocollini (8 oz/230 g)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil (30 mL)
4 Tbsp water (60 mL)
Salt and pepper to taste
Just before serving place the trimmed brocollini in a pan that has a cover (a sautoir) with the olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper and water. Place the pan over low heat, and cook the brocollini slowly while you are assembling the other parts of the meal. It should take about 10 minutes. When the brocollini is crisp tender, remove the cover and allow the final little bit of water to evaporate from the pan.
4 oz Smoked Mozzarella, coarsely grated (115 g)
Grate the smoked mozzarella onto a plate and separate into four equal piles This will make the proportioning easy when you plate the meal. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Grilling the Pork Chops
Clean the grate of your grill with a wire brush and spray with oil or wipe with a paper towel saturated with vegetable oil. Preheat the grill to high heat, or prepare an even bed of charcoal. When glowing it is ready. Remove the pork chops from the brine and place on a plate. Do not blot them dry. Sprinkle each on both sides with the finely chopped summer savor and a few grinds of black pepper.
Place on the hot grill for 2 minutes, turn the chops 90° to get a nice cross-hatched pattern. Grill for a further 2 minutes and turn over. Cook until the pork chop is firm to the touch. If you make a fist, it should feel like the back of your hand. If you have an instant-read digital thermometer it should register 165° F (74° C).
Spoon the risotto on the center of the plate and place a pork chop on top. Arrange the tomatoes over the pork and risotto. Sprinkle the smoked mozzarella evenly over each serving. Place the brocollini along one side or around the plate if you like, and garnish with chopped parsley. The earthy flavors and colors of the meal can only be found in summer.