The Month of Cooking Dangerously trudges forward.
To begin, a few updates: Claustrophobia has definitely set in. The walls in my livable areas seem to be closing fast. Spaces are getting smaller and concurrently the various piles of shit (important shit, yes, but piles none the less) seem to be towering higher and higher and growing ever more daunting with each passing day. I feel like I’m living an episode of Hoarders that I can’t change the channel on. My resistance to creating dishes that must then be washed with either a hose, a bathroom sink or a bathtub now resembles a tangent wave of negativity. Drywall dust seems to have a unique property that allows it to cover everything from my food to my ass crack, how it gets to either of those places, I’m not sure. My escape hatch as always leads to the backyard, where grilling continues to have the unique calming properties that allow me to basically forget that my house is torn asunder. Because, as always, a big-ass chunk of meat is still a reward in itself.
In the latest case, that giant chunk of meat was a pork chop. I love pork chops. I think they get the short end of the stick when it comes to the current trend of apotheosizing meat. Bacon worship is quickly becoming the trucker hat of lazy chefs and writers looking to goose a little food porn into everything from t-shirts to chocolate bars… Bacon is good, no shit. We all like it. Now quit dangling that little piece of meat at me like an over anxious teenager…. Beef will always be the saint and savior of the businessmen’s power tables at the steak house. And for good reason, if only because it can be oversized, overpriced and incredibly tasty. But the pork chop can be a thing of understated beauty. Especially when it’s from an impressive piggy like a Mangalitsa or other delicious heritage breed. Especially when it’s been brined or treated with some other type of love and respect. And doubly especially when it’s been gently coddled in oak smoke.
In the small town cue joints around Austin, the smoked pork chop is one of the best things to nab off the pit. While some places even specialize in their pork chop, it oddly remains a relatively unknown pillar of central Texas meat market style barbecue. Credit the old German butchers, because done well, they taste like silken pig candy complete with a boney handle.
On this last Sunday, the idea of not being inside my shrinking, dust-ridden house was too good to pass up. So the chops I had just purchased went into the pit for a long, slow smoking. Long and slow being relative terms, it really only takes about 2-3 hours and if you keep your heat low and humid, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. I also futzed with the flavors on them a bit, there’s a local barbecue joint that smokes maple-coriander pork ribs that will make you punch someone in the face they’re so good. Stealing from that and incorporating some old-school sweet and sour notions, I glazed them with a mixture of maple syrup, sherry vinegar, habanero hot sauce and garlic. Wrapped in bacon (I know, bacon again.) and served atop some rapini it created a damn fine meal.
Texas Sweet and Sour Pork Chops
2 large thick cut pork chops
2 slices thick bacon
Salt and Pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
A little olive oil
Hot Sauce, like Melinda’s XXXXtra Reserve Habanero (really delicious shit)
Light your smoker and get it rolling at about 175-200 degrees. Salt and pepper your chops liberally. Mix the syrup, garlic, hot sauce and vinegar to form a glaze. Splash in a little oil. Glaze the chops liberally and wrap with bacon. Smoke for 3 hours, eat. While picking your teeth, enjoy the lack of dishes or muse over your latest nook, crevice or cranny to be infested with drywall powder.