Monday, May 16, 2011

Bourbon and Cherry Grilled Pork Chops

Major props to Chris Lilly, Ken Hess, and the Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue Team for taking Grand Champion at Memphis In May this past weekend!
Chris Lilly at Kingsford U 2011.

I have been lucky enough to learn from Chris on several occasions including attending Kingsford University this year.  Chris has a wicked BBQ IQ, is a successful restauranteur, championship BBQ competitor, and author.  But what impresses me most is his business acumen.  If you took him out of the BBQ world tomorrow and dropped him into the field of "full contact, speed crochet", he'd be successful there too.  He really understands how to work it and is one of those people that makes his own good fortune. 

So I've been working on this recipe for the past week and came close a few times.  It finally came together yesterday.  

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Grilled Bourbon and Cherry Pork Chops
Servings: enough for 2 really hungry people
Thick pork chops are succulent but can be hard to grill all the way through without burning the outside. This recipe fixes that by combining direct and indirect heat. The smoky flavor of bourbon and the sweet taste of cherries combine over fire to make a sauce that is grillicious!

2 ea pork loin chops, bone in, at least 1” thick
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Black pepper

1 quart water & ice (see recipe)
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp peppercorns, cracked
1 tsp fennel seed

¼ cup dried cherries, diced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh thyme

Mix 2 cups of water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, and fennel seed in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve all salt and sugar. Remove from heat. Add enough ice and more cold water to make a quart. Bring temperature down to 40f. Soak the chops in this mixture for 4-6 hours.

Remove chops from brine, rinse, and dry them. Season with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes while you are starting your fire.

Set up your grill for direct heat at 450f.  Hickory or oak smoke will emphasize the smoky character of the bourbon. I was grilling on my Brinkmann grill and used Kingsford with Hickory (green bag) briquettes. If using lump coal, sprinkle hickory or oak chips just before grilling. If using a gas grill, put a “smoke bomb” (wood chips in a foil pouch or can) on the lava rocks and start grilling when it begins to smoke. This isn't going to smoke the meat per se, but it will give them a hint of smoke flavor.

When the fire is hot, brush your preheated grates with peanut or vegetable oil. Place the chops on the grill over direct heat and grill for five minutes per side.

While that is going on, whisk the baste ingredients in a small heat proof pan (foil ones work great) on the grill top.

After 10 minutes, the pork chops should have sear marks and some browning on the outside but they aren't done inside. Move them to the baste pan, flipping to coat both sides. 

Cook for another 10-15 minutes. During that time, every 2-3 minutes, shuttle them back to the grill grates for a minute and then back to the sauce pan. This does two things. First, it cooks the sauce ONTO the pork chop, layer after delicious layer. Second, it adds a smokey flavor back to the sauce each time the chops come back to the dish.

Pull the chops when they reach an internal temperature of 145f. Let the chops rest for at least 5-10 minutes after taking off the grill. They will continue cooking from carry over heat.

Serve and spoon some of the syrupy sauce over the chops.

These were some of the best pork chops I have made.  Everything came together with the grilling/basting to create an amazing sauce for the pork chops.