Sunday, July 29, 2012

Every Day is #SundaySupper, Especially with Perfectly-Grilled Pork Chops

Some of my most vivid, vibrant, and most cherished memories of childhood are of the six of us - mom, dad, my two sisters, my brother, and me - sitting around the table, saying grace and eating dinner. This nightly tradition was rarely missed. My mom made sure of it. And her meals were always fabulous. None more than most Sundays, when the aroma of the sauteed garlic and braised beef and pork for the gravy for that day's pasta dinner would fill the house from early in the morning. It's something I do every few months. Make a big pot, and freeze portions for later meals:

It's called "gravy" when you add meat to it

Sometimes when she felt unappreciated or if one of us gave a less-than-ringing endorsement of that night's menu, she'd say things like, "Why don't you go have dinner at (your friend's) house. I hear Mrs. (So-and-so) is making waffles or tuna fish sandwiches." Equally accurate and insulting. If you want to know where I learned my sharp wit, there's your answer. (Dad had a good hand in that too.) Or maybe she'd just give us a blanket, "Not many mothers do what I do, you know."

Mom, Christmas 1995. Getting dirty in the kitchen.
There's that Italian mom guilt I've mentioned before. But she was right. And now, more than two decades later, here I am. The King of the Kitchen, saying to My Director at dinner on nights when I feel I've been taken for granted or less-than-appreciated, "You know, not many husbands do what I do." The guilt AND the family dinner around the table are both traditions I've carried on.

Why did my mom insist on this? Why do I? Because it's important for us to have that time together. She knew it and I know it. We have a strict no-phone-at-the-table policy. If someone calls the house phone or one of our blackberries buzz, it's ignored until after dinner. This doesn't just go for Sunday. It's every night. And while I know things could change with Peanut starting Kindergarten in the fall, with her getting more involved in more activities during the week, we will still make a nightly family meal a priority. Just like my parents did.

Sometimes my meals are so good,
Peanut can't wait.
I do have some obstacles, time restraints, in executing meals up to my mom's standards. Up to MY standards. As I've said before, I need them to be healthy, nutritious, and delicious while using good ingredients. I try to avoid processed foods. And since I don't buy organic vegetables because they are so obnoxiously expensive, our garden comes in very handy this time of year. I work full-time and don't get home until 5:30 most nights, so time is an issue. That's where grilling comes in very handy.

So in honor of #SundaySupper, and in recognition of my (and I'm sure your) lack of time to cook, I am going to pull the curtain away from another one of my expert grilling techniques once again. Here is how to grill thick-cut pork chops that are still on the bone, and make sure they're nice and charred on the outside while juicy on the inside. (Like I've showed you with pork tenderloin and grilled chicken breast before, it's not easy to learn, which is why I'm sharing my secret.)

These look awesome because they are.
  • 2 large thick-sliced pork chops, on the bone, untrimmed.
  • Marinade of your choice. (If I'm not using Caribbean Jerk, I like something Asian. Like Sesame Ginger.)
  • Grill
  • Pyrex
  • Tongs
  • You (And your undivided attention)
  • Beer (optional)
  1. Marinate your pork chops. Sometimes I do use a dry marinade of salt, pepper, fresh garlic, shallots, and rosemary. However, I have learned that Peanut is more likely to eat and enjoy a non-chicken protein when I use a traditional marinade.
  2. Try to marinate them at least 1/2 hour before cooking. I like to do it 2-3 hours before. For the pork chops, if I don't want to waste a freezer bag, I pour some marinade in a Pyrex, place the chops in, and then pour some more on them.
  3.  Fire up your grill to high. All burners.
  4.  Once it's fully heated, place your pork chops on the grill. Leave the cover open and the heat on high. Cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to medium. Turn pock chops. Let cook for another 2-3 minutes, until there's the start of a decent char. Close lid.
  6. Don't walk away. Drink your (optional) beer and relax. You're cooking your family a delicious meal. You're entitled to a few minutes of peace while grilling.
  7. After another 4-5 minutes, open grill. Slosh those choppy chops around in the leftover marinade that's still in the Pyrex which you have expertly left on the side of your grill for just such an occasion. Return chops to grill on either side. Close grill.
  8.  Don't walk away.
  9. After 2 minutes, reduce heat to low. Two minutes later, turn those puppies over. The outside should be sufficiently charred. Now you're essentially "baking" the inside on low heat until they're cooked through. Keep turning every 2-3 minutes so you get an even char.
  10.  Now if you're wondering why the healthy-eating guy said "untrimmed" above, here's my secret: the fat will tell you when the inside is done. (Theoretically, so will a meat thermometer. But who the hell uses those after the first couple of times? They're more trouble than they're worth. And the batteries are probably dead.) Once the fat is black and crispy, chances are the insides are done. The fat also provides an extra bit of moisture so the cops don't dry up.
Making it Peanut-friendly:
  • Like I said, a traditional marinade will give it just enough sweetness to allow Peanut to enjoy. 
  • She also won't eat any meat that's dry, which is why I am now comfortable making these for dinner now that I know how to do them perfectly. (It's also why I no longer make London broil.)
  • Quick is also Peanut-friendly, since we start bedtime around 7-7:15. Summer is great for throwing something on the grill, tossing together a salad, and making some quick couscous. (Yes. I admit I make my couscous from a box, but from a brand I trust.) I do try to grill all year long, weather permitting.


  1. Haha, I think Mommy (or daddy) guilt transcends all nationalities - my mom is Thai and I'd always hear that stuff growing up. :) Thanks for sharing the recipe, looks delicious! -Mia

    1. You're probably right. Hope you try to grill some chops soon.

  2. Nice grill marks! My husband would be envious.
    Great story of your mom & family traditions.

    Good luck with Kindergarten this year. We are at the end of the school years with mine getting out of college this year. It goes by fast, so make those Sunday Suppers (or Wednesday dinners) something special to remember!
    Eileen Gross

    1. That's the plan. Always. And thank you. Cheers to you too.

  3. My daughter and I will likely be having hot dogs and mac 'n' cheese for dinner tonight. Thanks for making me feel so inadequate! ;) Those chops look fantastic, maybe we come over to YOUR house for dinner?

    1. If it make you feel any better, on Friday I made hamburgers and tater tots and Saturday we ordered Chinese food. Even the best of us need a break from time to time.

  4. Grilled chops are a favorite around here- we grill peaches or nectarines to go with them.
    Traditions around family meals are so important. Your priorities are just where they should be. My husband is the worst offender with the cell phone- or his home office line. Our last son is in college now and has just moved back home. It's wonderful when he requests his favorite comfort foods from me or my husband. The best times are around the family dinner table!

    1. Oooh I love grilling peaches and nectarines. I did that for a great salad. Made with grilled pork tenderloin and blue cheese. Was great.

  5. My hubby would love this! I hope it will be a wonderful kindergarten year. Love your blog :)

    1. Thanks so much! I hope he gets put there and grill some killer chops!

  6. Nice Grilling tips !! Am all for a little fat when the dish need it :) Wondering why I don't get those perfect grill marks when I we grill ?? You mom looks v cool & Peanut almost licking the dish looks adorable!

    1. Only a true artist can achieve such perfect grill marks. That's the first time I've ever heard my mom described as "cool." she's definitely a character. :-)

  7. Quick question! Can't wait to make these tonight, usually do unmarinated, thin sliced boneless with just some tenderizer on both sides 10 min before grilling-looking forward to mixing it up a bit with chops.

    Do I really need to do all 4 burners on high for this, just for 2 chops? Or will it be enough if I use 2 and keep them on that side? Thanks!

    (Love the blog-new reader, catching up)

    -Mommy of 4 & 6 yr old daughters and a 13 month old son

    1. The only reason I do that is for the "baking" factor. But if you're comfortable just firing up one burner, go right ahead. All depends on the grill.

    2. Oh man, wish I had read this before I made my attempt! LOL Uhm, when you put-"don't walk away," you should have specified, "Chops may catch fire and ignite entire grill if you don't keep an eye on em."

      When I went to do the sloshy slosh step, there was black smoke billowing out of the back of the grill. Fun times! Very charred on one side and a little wet (from the bowl of water I threw at them), they were somewhat salvageable being that they were actually cooked all the way. Sigh...will make another attempt soon.

      I am still a rookie at the grill. I used to stand at our Weber when I was a kid and squirt out the fires with a tiny water bottle when my parents made london broil or chicken on the grill. But now that I have gas, should I have sat there and peeked at them-squirting out the fire if the fat caught on? Help!

      PS Hubby is more of a rookie than me-I am the cook of all things. Hubby makes burgers or toast.


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