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Sweet pork chop and quince? Genius!

October 30, 2006

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My husband has reached a satisfying stage as a cook. Yes, he’s been making scrumptious food this entire time. But now, on occassion, I get to take credit for it (or try to) — without having to lift a finger.

Take the meal pictured above, Maple-Dijon Glazed Rib Chops with Quince. I proposed that he barbeque something — pork, perhaps — for our guests. Genius. Upon tasting the quinces that he had bought, I proposed that he use them as a sweet side to the pork dish. Magnificent. And of course, I suggested he make some damn good mashed potatoes (not pictured) that would pair perfectly with the sweet honeyed pork and quince. Outstanding!

The whole meal was a smashing success, and it was, like, totally my idea.

Granted, I didn’t actually make any of the elements that were such a smash. (I do help, though. I made the salad and the vegetable — again, not pictured. Just take my word for it. And I clean, too. And I’m an excellent eater.)

Yes, my husband took the raw clay of my unformed, rather vague ideas and turned them into masterpieces. But do I get some credit for providing the clay, people? Should Michelangelo get all the glory? What about the guy who pointed out David to him, and said “That would make a heck of a statue?”

No matter, my small reward will be eating the fruits of my husband’s cooking. And believe me, it’s not really that small a reward. This dish — for example — is absolutely delicious, and perfect for fall. The pork is tender and sweet, with the delicious smokey aroma that comes when sugar hits the grill and caramelizes. And the quince accompaniment is the perfect dancing partner for the pork. Forked up alone or together, either subject is dazzling. I highly recommend. Read on for the recipe and his how-to!

Backgrounder…

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In my constant effort to find new foods to cook, I’d been looking for quinces, which are in season this time of year. Quinces are not remotely new to anyone but me; in fact, they are quite ancient.

They date back to ancient Persia and are mentioned in Greek mythology. Botanically, they are related to the apple and pear. Our specimens had a thick, but edible, waxy yellowish skin. The flesh tasted like an apple or pear, but was a bit tougher. This may be due to the quality of the quinces we chose and may not be representative of the acutal fruit. I was surprised that it was very sweet, pleasant and in my opinion had a slight citrus and pear flavor. I really thought quinces had great potential for a variety of uses.

But it was my wife who inspired this particular recipe. We were having guests over for dinner and I was thinking of making an upside down cake with the quinces (and may still). She, however, suggested that I modify a well-known combination — pork and apples — using the quinces, instead. So I ditched the apples for our Persian friend, and added my own fall flavors by mixing together a glaze composed of maple, dijon mustard and a trio of pumpkin spices — allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. Some of this glaze went on the pork, the rest stewed with the quinces.

While the flavor the glaze lends the dish is great, the really underappreciated step is the brine. For the uninitiated, a brine is a liquid that has a high salt content; by resting the meat rest in brine for as little as an hour or as long as a couple of days (in the refrigerator, of course!) you can get terrific flavor and prepare your meat for cooking. Brining has become popular recently as many meats have become leaner, especially pork, and more susceptible to becoming tough and drying out.

Brining prevents this by doing two things: First, the high salt content of the water breaks down some of the tissue, acting as a tenderizer. Second, the variation between the salt content in the meat allows the cells in the muscle fiber to absorb more liquid (which can carry flavors if you ad them to the brine). The result is that when cooking, the loss of moisture is not so severe and the meat tends to remain tender. Therefore, for best results, don’t skip the brine.

Maple-Dijon Glazed Rib Chops with Quince
Serves 4.

Ingredients:

4 rib chops

2 quinces

Brine:

8 cups water

1/2 cup salt

2 tbsp. whole allspice

2 tbsp. whole cloves

2 sticks cinnamon

Glaze:

1 cup maple syrup (the real stuff… no Mrs. Butterworth’s, please)

1/4 cup dijon mustard

1 tsp. whole allspice

1 tsp. whole cloves

1 tsp. fresh cracked pepper

1/4 tsp. salt

2 sticks cinnamon

Directions:

1. In a large bowl or similar dish, mix the brine ingredients together. Whisk until the salt is dissolved. Place chops in the brine, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the maple syrup and dijon mustard. Whisk together until the mustard is integrated. Add the cloves, allspice, pepper, salt and cinnamon. Bring the mix to a boil and then turn the heat down to low. Cook for about 10 min.

3. Strain the glaze, removing the whole spices, and allow it cool. Set half of the glaze aside for the pork.

4. Peel and cube the quince. If you’re not ready to cook them, place them in acidulated water (aka water with a bit of lemon juice or other acid) to prevent them from turning brown.

5. Preheat your grill.

6. Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel.

7. Take the reserved half of the glaze, and brush it over both sides of the chops. Place them on the grill and cook for about 8 to 9 min. per side, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 150F. Remove from the heat and let rest for 5 min.

8. While the pork is cooking, place the cubed quince in a small saucepan along with the remaining glaze. Cook over medium heat for about 10 min. or until the quince yield easily to the point of a paring knife.

9. Serve each chop with a small side of the quince. Eat and enjoy!

2 comments

  1. Without the genius of your idea, you wouldn’t have had anything to eat, clearly you deserve all the credit…


  2. […] Yet this recipe is not just about very good roasted chicken. It’s also about my new best botanical friend: the quince. I started looking for them in the fall, bought them often and even have another recipe that uses them, maple glazed pork chop with quince. These golden beauties have such aroma and flavor that I had to find more places in my repertoire for them. […]



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