I was sitting around with some friends on a patio after work yesterday and they start chatting about an old coworker of theirs in Ghana who they thought was weird mainly because his favourite animal was a goat, as opposed to say a giraffe or elephant. Now, I'm not sure what this guy liked to do with his goats, but I have to say, just the mention of certain animals brings a Pavlovian dribble of saliva to my tongue. It might be odd that a guy raised as vegetarian for fifteen years would love meat so much, but I figure I'm just making up for lost time. And especially in Toronto where our barbecue season is shorter than the hair on a peach, the time to dust off your grill and get cooking has long passed.
Pork Chops with sauteed mushrooms and ricotta on a bed of greens
4 x 1 1/4" pork chops from your local butcher
2 onions, halved and sliced
3 cups of oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 tbsp sweet balsamic vinegar
1 lemon, quartered
4 tbsp of ricotta cheese
1C baby spinach
1C arugala (rocket)
Salty sweet spice rub
2 tbsp kosher salt
3 tbsp hot paprika or 3 dry chillis
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp mustard seed
1/4 tsp nutmeg
If you have all the your spices whole, it's best to make the rub by toasting everything (except the sugar) in a dry pan over medium for 45 to 60 seconds. Let it cool down then grind the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle.
Start off by wiping your grill with a rag or paper towel soaked in olive oil and then preheat your BBQ to 450, or leave all burners on medium high for ten minutes if you don't have a thermometer built in. Inside, saute the onions on medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes until they're soft, then add mushrooms and let them cook down for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, season with salt and pepper and turn down to minimum heat.
Rub your chops in the spice mixture and then bring them outside and place on the BBQ with at least an inch of space around all of your pieces of meat on the grill, to allow the hot air to circulate and cook evenly (they'll need to be flipped in four minutes). Close the lid. Inside, add a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar to your mushrooms and onion and stir throughout leaving on low heat to cook off excess moisture. Back outside, flip your meat and close the lid again allowing the chops to cook for another 4 minutes... if you want crosshatched sear marks to impress your guests, give the meat a 90 degree turn 2 minutes into cooking on each side and keep the heat just a touch higher to make up for opening your grill over and over.
Prep the plates with your greens, lay the meat on top, garnish with your balsamic reduction, and then finish with a healthy dollop of ricotta. Serve with a slice of lemon if you prefer. Or better yet, a slice of lemon on a tom collins. Cheers to Spring.