Sunday, June 10, 2012

Smoke-cured Pork Chops and Basil-Potato Salad


I feel like I'm overdosing a bit on chicken. Mind you, it is a perfectly versatile meat; it's kid-friendly and cooks relatively quickly. But there is only so much chicken one can eat. So at the butcher shop today I was thinking pork; pork that can be licked by flames and flavoured by smoke. How about smoked rib chops? Yes indeed. Kensington market provided me with a smoke-cured chop from the good people at Scotch Mountain meat. It looks much like a normal pork chop but is stained a purple-grey by the wood smoke while a cure in salt gives it a quality not unlike ham. The chops cook up pink and meltingly tender. The small knots of fat along the bone are perfumed by applewood and salt and ooze golden juice. I grilled them gently on a medium heat so as not to dry them out, but I have found that even if left unattended on the fire, they are very forgiving. Whereas a regular pork chop is a bit persnickety when it comes to getting the tenderness right, a cured chop achieves tenderness with little to no effort in the cooking. Some of the best parts of the chop requires some inelegant gnawing on the bone. I especially like the challenge of tearing off the hard-to-reach bits of meat from my wife's discarded bone. One of the true pleasures of marriage.

I accompanied the pork with a potato salad that was thrown together with the freshest ingredients I could find at the market: proper fat spring onions with large and shiny white bulbs(meagre scallions just wouldn't work as well here) and a generous bunch of fresh basil, sticky and fragrant. I filled the salad out with organic fingerling potatoes, delivered off the truck from somewhere in North Carolina that morning. Sure, not terribly local, but at least we're in the same time zone. The addition of a few capers adds unexpected pops of sour that contrasts nicely with the sweet pepperiness of the basil leaves.


Potato Salad with Basil and Spring Onion

500 g  of fingerling potatoes
2 or 3 large spring onions
8 or so fresh basil leaves
1 tsp of grainy dijon mustard
1 tsp of apple cider vinegar
1 tbs of olive oil
A sprinkling of capers
A bare trickle of honey
Salt and pepper

First, cook your potatoes. Get a pot of well-salted water boiling on the hob and get your potatoes in there. Cook them till they are fork tender (some of the skins may split slightly - no need to worry). Once they are tender, carefully drain and then get cold water on them so you stop the cooking process. Then put them in the fridge to firm up a wee bit. They're a bit crumbly when they're just cooked. In the mean time, chop up your spring onions finely and give the larger basil leaves a tear; the young leaves can stay whole. Then make your dressing: whisk the mustard, olive oil and vinegar together with the honey. Then assemble. Get the potatoes out of the fridge, they should not be  terribly cold, but the flesh will have set a bit and become waxy and pleasantly fudgy. With a very sharp paring knife, halve each potato length-wise. The skins may catch a bit one your knife and tear, but it's all in keeping with the rusticity of the dish. Toss the potatoes, spring onions and basil leaves with the dressing, sprinkle over the capers, then generously season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature. 

I added my beloved grilled veg to the dish as I frequently do during fair weather.

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