August 31, 2012
Tomatillo porkchops with fire roasted succotash by Isaac Kaplan-Woolner
Welcome back to the kitchen. Summer marches on, but these cooler nights belie an unavoidable truth: fall is on the way. But at the same time, we are very much in the absolute peak of harvest. Now is the time to eat local fruits and vegetables all day every day.
Have you had your fill of sweet local corn, crunchy cucumbers, and perfect heirloom tomatoes? I, for one, don’t think I can ever get my fill, and before you know it these peak of season treats will be gone.
So visit your local farmers market, ask your produce manager what is grown in the area, and keep harvesting from the garden and trading extras with friends and neighbors. This would be a great time of year to get in to freezing, canning, making sauces, jams, and other forms of preserving these incredible ingredients for the lean months.
Still, I’m by no means ready to give up on summer. I plan to cook and eat outside as often as possible until a true chill forces me inside. Plus, this is officially the last holiday weekend of summer ahead of us, so let’s get out on the back porch and grill!
One of my favorite things about grilling is that is can be so quick and easy, yet impart a whole lot of flavor. We won’t have any pots and pans to clean up either, which I consider a huge bonus. It gives us more time for summer fun activities! In my house, one of the favorite things to throw on the grill are boneless pork chops. They are quite affordably priced, cook in just a couple minutes, and can be quite tasty with just a simple seasoning.
I’m inspired this week by two ingredients in particular: one, I am completely back in love with corn after enjoying many ears of Quincy sweet corn this summer. Somehow they will never be quite as good as the butter and sugar corn of my youth, but that might just be the bias of memory. My favorite method this summer has been to soak the ears of corn for about a half an hour in cool water, then grill them for about 15 minutes or so, turning every few minutes until the husks start to blacken. You can remove the outer layer of husk for a quicker cooking time and a bit more char flavor on the corn. Some butter, or maybe a squeeze of lime and spicy salt, and I’m in heaven.
But today I want to use that grilled corn for a slightly exotic take on succotash, a classic side dish usually made up of corn, beans (lima beans usually), and maybe some bell pepper. We are of course going to give things a little twist. I’m going to add plenty of ripe heirloom tomato chunks, plus some crumbled cotija cheese to give things a Mexican twist.
The other ingredient catching my eye this week are tomatillos. These little green tomato relatives have a tarter, tangier flavor. They grow in delicate paper husks that we will remove before cooking. A classic in Mexican cuisine, we are going to make a roasted tomatillo salsa to top our pork chops. This is also a quick and easy process of grilling up some tomatillos and hot peppers, then blending them with onions, salt, lime juice, and cilantro.
So I think you have the basic idea, let’s get started with our Grilled Porkchops with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Fresh Corn Succotash Mexican Style. Heat up the grill nice and hot, and start your ears of corn soaking in water. You actually want to start the corn roasting before the meat, because it will take longer and we want it to cool down a bit before cutting it off the cob. Let’s just start with the succotash, because it can sit aside while we do the pork and the tomatillo salsa. We will have to use a skillet inside for part of this recipe as well.
For a grilled corn Mexican Succotash we will need:
-6 ears of corn, soaked in water for ½ hour
-2 cups fresh (or frozen if that’s all you have) lima beans
-1 medium onion, chopped
-about 3 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes
-3 tablespoons butter
-1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped fine
-1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese
-salt and pepper to taste
-fresh chopped cilantro for a garnish, if desired
Once the corn has soaked and the grill is hot, remove the outer layer of husk, being sure to leave at least 2 layers behind, and place ears over the heat. Let the corn grill for about 15 minutes, turning every couple of minutes until the husk blackens and the kernels start to show through. The corn will continue to cook a bit off the grill, and we are going to incorporate it into a dish that gets cooked a bit more, so go for undercooked on this first step.
Meanwhile in a skillet melt the butter over a medium heat and sauté the onions for a few minutes until they start to become translucent. Add half of the tomatoes and the fresh lima beans, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the beans sauté, stirring occasionally until the lima beans start to get tender.
When the corn is cool enough to handle, use a chef’s knife to cut all the kernels off the cob. Add the corn, fresh oregano, and salt and pepper to the skillet and stir for another minute or so until everything is incorporated. Add the rest of the chopped tomatoes (we wanted to have some more on the raw side, as the others will cook away and fall apart). Remove the succotash from the heat and stir in the crumbled cotija cheese. Yum! Set this supreme succotash aside, and let’s get the chops and salsa underway.
For the Mexican seasoned pork chops we will need:
-4 to 6 boneless pork chops
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-2 teaspoons cumin powder
-a tiny dash of cinnamon (optional)
-2 or 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced fine (or a big dash of garlic powder)
-1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder (like cayenne)
-finely chopped cilantro stems (just use the stems from about 1 bunch of cilantro, they are full of flavor)
-juice of ½ lime
-salt and plenty of pepper to taste
Mix all the marinade ingredients together into a sort of paste in a baking dish or pie pan, then put in the pork chops and mix them around until they are all well coated. Let the meat sit for at least 10 minutes to absorb some flavor (longer is better).
Grill the chops over a medium high to high heat for just about 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. They shouldn’t take long at all, and it is perfectly ok to eat your pork just a tad pink in the middle these days. When the chops are grilled, set them aside to rest for 5 or 10 minutes before serving.
Those chops look delicious, but I think they will be even better with a home made salsa on top. So for this Roasted Tomatillo Salsa we will need:
-1.5 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed off to get rid of the stickiness
-about 5 jalapeno pepper depending on how hot you want it, seeded if less heat is desired (you can also use serranos or even poblanos)
-1 large clove garlic, peeled
-about ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro, or more if desired
-1 small onion, peeled and chopped (or use more if you have a sweet onion)
-juice from 2 limes
-a big pinch of salt
-olive oil for brushing
Lightly coat the tomatillos and hot peppers with oil and grill them over a medium high heat for a few minutes, turning once or twice. Remove the tomatillos and peppers from the grill when they start to char, soften, and the skins start to split. Remove the stems from the tomatillos and peppers.
Blend all the salsa ingredients together until smooth, then set aside. I like to keep this salsa at room temperature, so it doesn’t chill the meat when we serve them together, but you can certainly make it ahead and keep it in the fridge for a few days.
This meal could be served with rice or tortillas, but honestly I don’t think it really needs it. We’ve got that colorful roasted corn succotash with fresh lima beans and beautiful tomatoes, plus the bright green salsa to go on the Mexican porkchops. What a wonderful meal! The smokiness pervades the roasted tomatillo salsa, which is also a little sweeter since we partially cooked the base ingredients. The porkchops are juicy and full of flavor, and go really well with the heat of the salsa and marinade. And the succotash is sweet and delicious.
A perfect, easy, somewhat exotic tribute to late summer, if I may say so myself. Nice work everyone! I’d love to hear your triumphs and challenges on the grill this summer. Send me any questions or comments to Isaac@kohoradio.com, Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-Woolner.