I decided to brine some pork chops to serve over the Cheddar Grits I was planning to make. Brining lean meats like pork chops, chicken breasts, fish fillets, and shrimp is a great way to keep them moist and juicy after they’re cooked. Brining is really easy. It’s simply marinating your meat in a solution of salt and water before cooking. How long you brine your meat depends on what you’re brining. Small, thin pieces like fish fillets and shrimp should be brined for no more than 30 minutes or less. A large turkey can be brined overnight.
This chart is from one of my early issues of Fine Cooking magazine and gives you a good idea of the ratio of salt to water for each of the different meats and how long to brine them. Make enough brining liquid to completely submerge the amount of meat you plan to cook.
The chart above gives salt concentration and brining time for various foods. Concentrations listed are for Diamond Crystal kosher salt. For table salt, cut salt amounts by 1/2; for Mortons kosher salt, cut amounts by 1/4.
You can add different herbs like rosemary, thyme, garlic, etc., to your brine. You can also change the brining liquid to broth or apple cider. You can even add sugar. All these additions are flavor enhancers, but the main ingredient in a brine is salt. You can’t have a brine without it. Make sure that whatever you’re brining is completely submerged in the liquid and keep it in the refrigerator for the required period of time. After the required brining time, remove the meat and rinse it under cold water so that it won’t be too salty.
GRILLED BRINED PORK CHOPS
- 6 pork chops
- 1 quart apple cider
- ½ cup salt
- Mix apple cider and salt in a plastic baking bag or a ziploc bag.
- Add the pork chops and seal the bag partway, pressing to remove all the air you can before sealing the bag completely so the pork chops are fully submerged.
- Place bag in refrigerator and allow pork chops to sit in brine for 4 hours.
- After 4 hours, remove pork chops from brining liquid and discard the liquid.
- Rinse the pork chops under cool running water and pat them dry with paper towels.
- Grill or pan fry to desired doneness.
Note: I served the pork chops over a bed of polenta with roasted butternut squash.
EASY ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH
- 1 large butternut squash (about 3 lbs.)
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. garam masala
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Peel squash, remove seeds, and cut into 1-inch chunks.
- Place squash in a rimmed baking sheet.
- Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with garam masala, salt and pepper.
- Toss all together well.
- Bake at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork.
It’s National Customer Service Week this week and to celebrate, we had a floor-wide potluck at my office today. As I searched my pantry and fridge yesterday trying to decide what to make, I saw that I had all the ingredients needed to make some good old Mac ‘n Cheese. I remembered seeing a recipe for it in my new Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook and as someone who loves nothing more than trying out new recipes, I couldn’t resist trying this one. The recipe was very good. It wasn’t what I would call a “grown-up” Mac ‘n Cheese, probably because it had American cheese in it, but it definitely was one that would appeal to kids of all ages. It certainly appealed to my kids. And it was wiped out pretty quick at the potluck.
Though Macaroni and Cheese is considered a classic American dish, it actually has its roots in Italy where some version of it was probably being made for as long as they’ve been making pasta. From its early days where noodles were tossed with butter and cheese to the version that we all know and love today, the dish went through many variations. In 1937, Kraft introduced the little blue box of dried pasta and powdered cheese that is beloved by virtually every American kid today. However and wherever its origins, Mac ‘n Cheese epitomizes the quintessential comfort food. Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, you can jazz it up in myriad ways. You can vary the cheeses, from purely cheddar to a blend of gruyère, fontina or parmesan; you can add bacon, ham, even lobster! The possibilities are endless!
BEST POTLUCK MACARONI AND CHEESE
- 4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 lb. elbow macaroni
- 5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 3 (12-oz.) cans evaporated milk
- 2 tsp. hot sauce
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 8 ozs. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- 5 ozs. American cheese, shredded (1-1/4 cups)
- 3 ozs. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse bread, melted butter, and Parmesan in food processor until ground to coarse crumbs, about 8 pulses. Transfer to bowl.
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup macaroni cooking water, then drain and rinse macaroni in colander under cold running water. Set aside.
- Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in now empty pot over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture turns light brown, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in evaporated milk, hot sauce, mustard, nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook until mixture begins to simmer and is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and reserved cooking water until cheese melts. Stir in macaroni until completely coated.
- Transfer mixture to 13 by 9-inch baking dish and top evenly with bread-crumb mixture. Bake until cheese is bubbling around edges and top is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.