The Pork Chop With Caramelised Pear & Onion Compote
Ah... the cardboard pork chop incident. It was to be a small London dinner party with my partner’s childhood friends. Friends I had never met. Friends I had hoped to impress with a memorable meal. It was memorable—and not so good. Even a large steak knife was no match for those chops. Nine years later, whispered tales of the Tower Bridge Pork Chop can still be heard. If I had only known the secret of succulent pork chops that day! It’s brine; I can’t wait for Tony and Margaret to try these.
- 4 x 220g (7oz) bone-in pork loin chops* rind on (1–1½ in/2½–4 cm thick)
- 1 Tbsp vanilla oil for brushing chops
Ginger Beer Brine
- 4 cups water
- 4 Tbsp fine sea salt
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 x 500 ml bottle ginger beer/ginger ale
- 1 Tbsp yellow mustard seed
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
- 1–2 vanilla pods**
- 10 peppercorns
- 3 fresh bay leaves, bruised
- 5 tsp grapeseed or vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped in ½-in/1-cm pieces
- 2 Tbsp grainy mustard
- 2 tsp runny honey
- 2 tsp apple cider or white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp vanilla paste
- ½ fl cup white wine, such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer
- ¾ fl cup chicken stock
- 1 pear, large and firm, peeled, cored and cut into ½-in/1-cm pieces
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
* If you are fortunate enough to get a pork chop with crackling skin on, here’s Brendan the Butcher’s tip - pour boiling water over scored pork skin until it curls back. Brine as indicated and, just before grilling, pack pork skin with butter and a layer of salt.
** Smoky oven-cured Indonesian vanilla pods are ideal for this dish.
Ginger Beer Brine
Put pork chops in a large sealable plastic bag.
In a large jug, stir the brine ingredients together, pour into the pork chop bag and seal.
Place sealed bag in a dish and refrigerate for 2–6 hours or overnight, turning the bag over occasionally.
In a sauté pan, over medium–low heat, heat oil and onions. Stir occasionally, until they are caramelized—about 20 minutes. While onion mixture is cooking, mix mustard, honey, vinegar and vanilla paste in a small bowl. Set aside.
Deglaze the pan with the wine and scrape up the bits of browned onion with a wooden or silicone spoon until nearly dry. Add stock occasionally and reduce by half, then add the pear and thyme. Simmer the compote until pears are fork-tender, caramelized and the liquid is reduced. Fold in the mustard mixture and add sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
Turn off heat, cover and keep warm while chops are cooking. Can be made a day ahead and reheated just before serving.
Grilling the chops
Remove chops and discard brine. Rinse under running cold water and pat dry.
Brush both sides with vanilla oil and allow 20 minutes to let meat come to room temperature.
Heat barbecue grill to medium–high. Place chops on hot grill and cook without moving them for 3 minutes. Lift chops, make a quarter turn and return to grill for an additional 3 minutes. Turn chops over and repeat steps for an additional 5–6 minutes. Place chops crackling side on grill, holding with tongs or leaning on a rack and cooking until crispy, 3–5 minutes. Remove from grill, loosely cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Serve chops immediately with warmed pear–onion compote and a chilled glass of Gewürztraminer, Riesling or Rosé.