Brined Pork Chops with Roasted Grapes and Goat Cheese and Thyme Mashed Cauliflower

I am a big roasted grape fan! Given some heat from the oven, the grapes start to burst, concentrate in flavor, and obtain a jammy sweetness. They go perfectly with pork.

The pork chop is simply brined in leftover brine from some fermented veggies I made. You can use any pickle juice or juice leftover from fermented or pickled veggies. If you do not have any on hand, sub with water, a tablespoon of pickling or all purpose seasoning, and add salt at a 2% ratio to the weight of the water. You need enough water to cover the chops completely. Why go through the trouble you ask? Brining adds tons of flavor and juiciness. It takes relatively mellow flavored pork to another level.

After an hour or two of brining, the pork chops go into a super hot pan with thyme sprigs and a mixture of butter and cooking oil. The herbs sizzle and flavor the oil and butter, which is used to continually baste the chop while it sears. It is surprising how much flavor the pork takes on with this method given the quick searing time!

Serving these pork chops with roasted grapes over some goat cheese and thyme mashed cauliflower is a dinner time win! The secret to making it super mashed-potato-y is browning the garlic. This adds an intense savoriness that reminds me so much of classic garlic mashed potatoes while removing any vegetal notes that cauli-haters might recognize. The goat cheese adds some creaminess and funk, akin to sour cream but more interesting. Without the starch of potatoes, this cauliflower mash is silky and light, you might be tempted to eat it all at once! I definitely was.

I chose to serve this dinner with my favorite Red Wine Vinegar Roasted Broccolini. If you are a broccoli fan, I highly recommend! This dish has a lot going on: herbaciousness, richness from the mash, and sweet, fruity notes from the grapes; it calls for a simple veggie side. The bite from the red wine vinegar fits the bill perfectly, adding acidity to refresh the palate.

Although the brining does require planning, this meal comes together quickly – especially if you prepare the mash ahead of time! Perfect for a quick but luxurious dinner you will dream about all day long 😊.


Goat Cheese and Thyme Mashed Cauliflower

Servings: makes 4 cups

Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 6 cups of florets)
  • 6 ounces of goat cheese
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. heavy cream (optional but good)
  • 1 tbsp. of veggie broth (may need more)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tsp. of fresh thyme leaves
  • salt
  • pepper

How-to:

  1. Cut the florets from the cauliflower head. You should keep the stems, cutting them into chunks, but not the tough inner core (in this way, most of the head should be used).
  2. Steam the cauliflower until very tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, add 2 tbsp. of the butter to sauce pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook until golden brown and very fragrant. Be careful not to burn or it will become bitter. Add thyme leaves and remove from heat. 
  4. Place steamed cauliflower in a food processor. Add the cooked butter, thyme, and garlic. Add the heavy cream, veggie broth, and goat cheese. Process until completely smooth.
    • If needed, add more broth bit by bit. You want a mash texture, not a puree, so be carful not to add too much liquid. 
  5. Taste the mash and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Brined Pork Chops with Roasted Grapes

Servings: recipe is for one pork chop but can easily by multiplied 

Time: 21-2 hours of brining; 15 minutes to cook the meal

Ingredients:

  • 1 bone-in pork chop (about 7 ounces and 1 inch thick)
  • 1/2 cup of grapes (more or less)
  • 1/2 tbsp. of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. butter, separated
  • cooking oil (I use avocado)
  • salt
  • pepper

How-to:

  1. Brine the pork chop by adding in brine from pickled or fermented veggies. If you do not have such a brine, make a 2% salt solution and add a tbsp. of pickling or all purpose seasoning. Allow pork to brine for 1-2 hours. Pork may get tough if brined for longer.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Place grapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Add some cooking oil and chopped rosemary leaves. Place in oven for about 10-15 minutes, until browned in places and starting to burst and release juice. 
  4. While grapes are cooking, pull pork chop from brine and dry well on both sides. Season with a bit of salt and plenty of pepper (it will already be salty so do not over-season). 
  5. Preheat a skillet on medium high. When hot, add butter and cooking oil and 3 sprigs of thyme. Place pork chop on top of the herbs in the hot pan. As the pork sears, tip the pan to the side and gather the butter and oil in a spoon. Baste by pouring this butter and oil over the pork. Do this every 30 seconds or so. Pork needs 4-6 minutes per side depending on thickness and the heat of the pan. 
  6. Flip pork and sear and baste the other side in the same way. 
  7. Pull pork from heat and allow to rest until grapes are done. 
  8. Serve pork over warmed goat cheese and thyme mashed cauliflower and top with roasted grapes. 

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