One of my favorite things to do culinarily is to attempt to mimic a meal from a favorite restaurant. I try to make the same meal, with my twists. Maybe I add a little more of this or less of that. An example is a visit to The Lazy Goat (a favorite in downtown Greenville, SC) I had a brilliant lunch. Serrano Wrapped Halibut with Haricot Verts and Duck Fat Fries (best in the world…duck fat, enough said). This inspired me to make Prosciutto Wrapped Halibut with Haricot Verts and Baked Duck Fat Fries. I switched the prosciutto for the Serrano because I like it better and I baked the fries because I don’t have a fryer.
Earlier this year on a pilgrimage to Charleston, SC we visited a newly opened restaurant for dinner. Husk, a Sean Brock (admittedly one of my favorite chefs) restaurant, offers local southern inspired cuisine. As a matter of fact, none of the food served in the restaurant can come from north of the Mason-Dixon line (seriously). That night I had a Fudge Farms Pork Chop with Crispy Pig Ears, Bacon Braised Cabbage and Speckled Butterbean Chow Chow. Yes, I said with crispy pig ear. It was amazing, the pork chops were perfectly cooked, and the broad beans add a nice creamy balance against the sour and heat of the chow chow. Oh, and then there is the pig’s ear. I tell you, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It essentially tastes like bacon. I love when Chef’s use the whole animal, I think it respects the animal to discard as little as possible. I digress; the pig’s ear was crispy, smoky, sweet and salty. It really did finish the dish perfectly. On last thing, if you aren’t familiar with chow chow, it is a spicy southern relish that is usually used down here as a condiment.
So that was my inspiration for Pork Chops, Creamy Grits, Chow Chow and garnished with crispy turkey bacon. On a visit to Whole Foods, we just couldn’t decide what we wanted for dinner. Jen suggested that we hadn’t had pork chops in a while. They had the biggest chops I’d seen, fresh, local, organic, thick cut chops. I’d never made chow chow before. A quick Google search gave me some ideas, but I am WAY to impatient to wait 6 hours to 2 weeks as most recipes suggested. I decided on a “quick” chow chow instead. The creamy grits tied this dish up nicely. I could probably have found some fresh pig’s ears (I actually had a bag of smoked ones for my dogs) but…umm…I’ll leave that to the professionals. I usually would have used my go to Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon, but I’m embarrassed to say, I was fresh out. All I had was Jen’s turkey bacon. All in all, this meal was very nice.
The chow chow was amazing, crunchy, sour, salty and spicy. We still have some in the fridge, I imagine it will be all the better in a few more days. I have talked in previous posts (like making quick kimchee and quick pickles) about my impatience in the kitchen. I have an idea and I want to eat it that night, not in a week or heaven forbid TWO WEEKS. The chow chow is the same deal. Most traditional chow chow are pickled and set for weeks or longer. My answer to that is below. Also, my jalapenos weren’t quite ready for harvest so I substituted Srirachi (my favorite condiment). This gave it a little Asian twist, which we liked.
- 2 thick cut pork chops
- Anson Mills Grits (you can use quick grits but NOT instant)
- Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon
- Half and half (milk or heavey cream)
- 1/2 to 1 cup cheese (your favorite cheese that melts easy)
- 1/2 head of savoy cabbage
- 2-3 green tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper cubed
- 1 small vidalia onion sliced thin
- Vinegar (I used a mixture of red, white and cider)
- 1-2 tablespoons sugar to taste
- Sriracha to taste
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- First we’ll make the chow chow. Heat a large pot over medium. Because this is the “quick” version, I put the green tomatoes into my food processor and pulsed them about 10 times. I wish I would have only pulsed 5-6 times; it would have left a few more visible chunks. Add a touch of olive oil and drop in the onions and bell pepper, mix for a minute. Add green tomato and juice from processor. Mix all together and add salt, vinegar, sugar, sriracha and bring to boil. Reduce to low and simmer until vegetables are cooked through but still have some crunch. At this point I just removed from heat and let sit until I was done making the other components. Traditionally you cool and put in the refrigerator. I was deliberately vague on the amounts for this recipe. Just add to your tastes, if you like more heat add more sriracha. If you like it sweeter, add more sugar.
- Pre-heat your oven to 420 degrees.
- If you have “real” grits, they may take up to 40 minutes to cook. If you have quick grits, that time will be more like 5-10. As for “instant” grits, it is just not right, don’t do it. 🙂 Prepare the grits per the pack, but I usually replace half of the water with half and half, heavy cream or milk. When the grits are done, add cheese and butter (if you like). Also, on this day, I poured the drippings from the pork chop pan in. That added most of the seasoning. Keep warm.
- For garnish I used turkey bacon brushed with molasses, but I just can’t recommend that to you all. Use smoked bacon. Put the bacon on a sheet pan and place in the oven. Cook until crispy.
- For the pork chops, season with salt and pepper and in a large oven proof pan sear both sides. Place in the oven until the chops reach the appropriate doneness. I think the rule is 145 degrees. I like them a little pink, I usually target 130-135 degrees and let the carry-over cooking, when removed from the oven, bring them to a safe temperature.
The “sauce” you see in the photo above is actually the pickling liquid from the chow chow. I was very pleased with my decision to serve the chow chow warm. While eating, the sauce mixed with the grits and was delicious. I like the vegetables being sour with good heat and still having some crunch. The chow chow was nice this way although not traditional. Let me know what you think.