Image: Thomas Teal

Country Cat’s Grilled Pork Chops

Serves 4

Few know their way around a pig like Country Cat’s Adam Sappington. Proof? Watch Guy Fieri make love to one of Sappington’s “Whole Hog” plates (headcheese croquettes, grilled tomahawk loin, roasted porchetta, and braised shoulder) on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (if you dare). These salty-sweet chops, adapted from Country Cat cookbook Heartlandia, outshine any humdrum rib eye.

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp chile flake
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground fennel seed
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 2 whole cloves
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 4 bone-in pork rib chops, 1½–2 inches thick (if using center-cut loin chops as pictured, watch for quicker cooking)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 quart water with all ingredients except pork chops. Bring to a boil.

2. Add 4 cups ice to a large container and stir in the hot brine. Once at room temperature, add chops, cover, and refrigerate 6–24 hours.

3. An hour before grilling, remove chops from brine to let them come to room temperature. Dry with paper towels. Over direct high heat, grill pork chops until caramelized, about 4 minutes per side, or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the chop reads 135 degrees. If chops are still rare, move them to a cooler part of the grill, over indirect heat, and cover until cooked. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Ned Ludd’s Grilled Cucumber & Haloumi with Pine NutOregano Salsa

Serves 6

“People aren’t used to hot cucumbers,” warns Jason French, Ned Ludd’s firewood-cooking expert. But they’ll get over that real quick. This Middle Eastern salad of melty grilled cheese, smoky, crunchy cukes, and herbaceous, toasty salsa makes for a great holdover to the main course. 

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 4 small Persian cucumbers, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 pinch chile flake
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley
  • ½ cup roughly chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 one-inch-thick slices haloumi cheese
  • Salt, black pepper, and more olive oil for seasoning
  • Za’atar, sumac, and lemon zest for garnish

1. In a small bowl, cover shallot in lemon juice and let sit 20 minutes. Seed and small-dice one cucumber. Add diced cucumber, pine nuts, chile flake, parsley, oregano, and olive oil to the lemon-shallot bowl and mix well. Salsa will keep for up to two days in the fridge.

2. Pat dry remaining three cucumbers and haloumi, drizzle with olive oil, and season the cukes with salt and pepper. Over direct high heat, grill the cucumbers (split side down) and haloumi 1–2 minutes. Rotate cucumbers and cheese 45 degrees to make hash marks, and grill 1–2 minutes longer. Remove and garnish with a sprinkling of za’atar, sumac, and lemon zest. Spoon pine nut salsa over top and serve.

Paley’s Grilled Oysters with Charmoula

Vitaly Paley uses this grilled oyster recipe at his two hotel restaurants, Imperial and Headwaters. He likes the North African condiment charmoula (a.k.a. Moroccan pesto) so much, he put it in his opus, The Paley’s Place Cookbook. An oyster gateway drug for squeamish eaters, this goes great with chilled rosé.

  • 3 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped mint
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 large Pacific oysters, like the Fat Bastard variety, scrubbed clean

1. Combine first seven ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the olive oil. Charmoula can be made a day in advance but is best fresh.

2. Grill oysters, cup-side down, over direct high heat until bubbling around the edges, about 1–3 minutes. Remove top shell. Serve with charmoula.

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