We’ve been obsessed with Chef Edward Lee’s cookbook Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen since we got our hands on a copy last year. Lee has made a career out of infusing the traditional dishes and flavors of the South with Asian influence—and quite often a healthy dose of booze.
For this week’s Cooking With Booze, we played around with his base recipe for a pork chop brine and tailored it to our own tastes. His brine calls for gin, but we swapped it for bourbon. We also use molasses in place of sorghum (only because we have easy access to molasses).
Technically, this is a summer recipe since it calls for fresh peaches. Considering it’s the middle of the winter, however, we used a mixture of canned peaches and high-quality peach preserves in the glaze.
Ed Lee’s Bourbon-Brined Pork Chops
4 bone-in pork chops (about 10 oz. each)
1 cup bourbon
2 cups water
¼ cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 can diced peaches with 2 tablespoons of the syrup
¼ cup peach preserves
¼ cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (use a Microplane)
2 teaspoons honey
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup pistachios
¼ cup dried bread crumbs
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To make the brine, add the bourbon to a saucepan over medium heat until it is reduced to about ¼ cup. Add the rest of the brine ingredients and bring to a low heat and stir to dissolve the brown sugar and the salt. Let the brine come to room temperature.
Place pork chops in a freezer bag and pour the cooled brine into the freezer bag. Allow to brine in the fridge for no less than 4 hours and no more than 24 hours.
To make the glaze, combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a low simmer and allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender (or a food processor if you must), puree the ingredients until smooth. (Lee says that at this point the aroma of ginger and peaches should fill the room, and our whole house smells like peaches and ginger when we make this recipe).
To make the gremolata, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse about 10 times until it becomes a rough paste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 400º F.
Remove the pork chops from the brine, rinse under cold water and discard the brine. Dry the pork chops completely with paper towels and season them with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the pork chops and cook for 3 minutes on each side, until browned and nicely caramelized.
Brush a dollop of peach glaze over each pork chop. Sprinkle a generous even layer of the gremolata over the glaze. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the pork is cooked to medium rare. The juices should run clear when a chop is pierced with a knife close to the bone. The glaze will be set and the gremolata should look just a shade brown and crunchy on top. Let the cooked chops rest in the pan for 5 minutes.
Carefully transfer the pork chops to plates and serve immediately.