Saturday, July 4, 2009
Strawberry Pecan Pork
I have recently rediscovered pecans. I didn’t think I cared for them much (pecan pie still doesn’t do anything for me), but after eating them on top of a strawberry poppyseed salad at a certain lunchtime restaurant here in town, I have been enjoying their nutty, crunchy taste.
This recipe not only makes use of pecans, but it also makes use of some of the two giant trays of strawberries I bought at the store today. (We’ll be having strawberries in *everything* until I get those things cut up and frozen…)
This recipe involves coating pork chops in ground pecans. I use three small cereal bowls to hold the flour, egg, and pecans. If your cereal bowls are too deep, it might be easier for you to use pie tins. You could also use large zip lock bags – that has worked well for me in the past, particularly when I’ve made pecan-encrusted pork for large groups.
Strawberry Pecan Pork
2 cups pecans, chopped
3 cups strawberries, hulls removed
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Approximately 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
4 thin-cut boneless pork chops
1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil
In a small skillet, lightly toast the pecans over medium heat until they become fragrant and just barely begin to brown. Reserve a few tablespoons of the nuts to use as a garnish. Turn the rest of the toasted nuts out into the small work bowl of a food processor; reserve the small skillet. Process the nuts until finely ground – but not so much that they turn into nut butter.
While the nuts are toasting, slice the strawberries into chunks. Place the sliced strawberries in the empty small skillet. Add the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Don't start cooking the strawberries yet - just set the skillet aside until you’re ready to start the cooking process.
You will need three small cereal bowls or similar vessels. Place the flour and a pinch of salt in one bowl. In the second small bowl, lightly beat the egg and 2 Tbsp of water. Place the ground pecans in the third small bowl. Place a wire rack (like what you’d use to cool cookies) over a large plate – this will be the holding spot for the encrusted pork.
Use a pair of tongs to dip a pork chop into the flour mixture. Turn it, patting flour onto it to be sure it is evenly coated. Shake off any excess flour and transfer the meat to the egg mixture. Use the tongs to push the pork into the egg mixture, covering the entire piece. Allow any excess egg mixture to run off, then transfer the pork into the pecans. Gently pat the pecans onto the surface of the pork, coating the surface evenly. Transfer the encrusted pork to the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining pieces of pork. (Use tongs or something similar - try not to use your fingers – you’ll be picking gluey pecan bits out of your fingernails for hours.)
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork, cooking it in batches if necessary. Handle the pork as infrequently as possible, or you’ll risk damaging the pecan coating. Panfry over medium high heat until the pork is cooked through, turning it only once. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the meat, but you can expect 3 to 5 minutes per side.
After you flip the pork and begin to cook it on it’s second side, place the skillet with the strawberries over medium heat. Give them a stir every so often. They should soften up and begin to release their juices – it will just take a few minutes. Once they begin to soften, turn the heat down to low.
After the pork has finished cooking, transfer it to a serving plate, reserving the large skillet. If it’s cool in your kitchen, you might want to tent the pork with foil to keep it warm. Turn the heat off of both pans.
Transfer the strawberry mixture to the still-hot large skillet, reserving the small skillet. The liquid in the strawberries will start to deglaze the pan. (It will bubble up, so use caution!) Add a quick splash of water – maybe 1/4 cup at the most – just enough to keep the strawberry mixture from totally boiling down and burning. Stir the strawberries, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze any browned bits. (This all just takes a few seconds.) Once the browned bits are incorporated into the strawberry sauce, transfer the strawberries and sauce back into the small pan where it is cooler – again, this will keep the strawberries from burning.
Serve the pork topped with the strawberries and sauce. Garnish with the reserved nuts. I served it alongside some asparagus, too, because that’s one of my favorite veggies!