Saturday, 13 September 2014

Seared Pork Chop with Peach Pico de Gallo








It is harvest season! In the area of the world where I live, late summer-early autumn is when we harvest most of our best local produce when they are at their peak. Two popular and delicious fruits that grow here in Southern Ontario that are their absolute best this time of year are tomatoes and peaches. I have been told that the American state of Georgia produces the most delicious peaches in the world. I cannot attest to that statement since I have never had a Georgia peach. What I can attest to is that Ontario produces the best peaches that I have ever had. I didn't realize how much I loved fresh peaches until I moved here around this time seven years ago. I want to show you a great way to incorporate fresh tomatoes and peaches in a way that puts a spin on a traditional yet versatile, Mexican favourite. Though technically a salad, pico de gallo (pee-koh de gai-oh) is used mostly as a condiment, topping or as a salsa fresca. Here I've added some diced peach to a simple pico de gallo. I served it with a juicy, seared pork chop. I also had the idea of making a curried cauliflower purée to go with it. I really liked the flavour combination but the texture and colour of the purée was all wrong. 

I sautéed some shallots and garlic before adding 2 tbsp curry powder, 1/2 tbsp paprika and 1/2 tsp of hot chili powder. I fried the spices for about a minute before adding 1/2 a cauliflower head that I had chopped up. After a bit of stirring I added about a cup of boiling water and placed a lid over the pot. I turned the heat down to medium-low and let the cauliflower steam for about 7 minutes until it was tender. I placed the contents into a blender and puréed with a splash of cream and about a tbsp of unsalted butter. I should have omitted the paprika and added turmeric instead. I was hoping for a yellowy-orange colour but I ended up with more of a tan brown. The texture was a little too grainy so I poured it into a fine sieve to try to smooth it out but all I ended up doing was draining the liquid out and making it even more grainy. Since it was a flop I won't bother with the recipe. The pico de gallo and the pork chops turned out great and they worked really well together.

Let's start with the peach pico de gallo...


Ingredients

1 fresh peach, stoned removed and finely diced
1 fresh tomato, seeded and finely diced
1 medium shallot, finely diced
1/2 jalepeño, seeded and finely diced
The zest from one fresh lime
The juice from 1/2 a fresh lime
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped (to taste)
Salt & Pepper


Peaches soften as they ripen. Ideally, you want to use a slightly firm peach for this recipe. It will be easier to dice and keep its shape when stirred with the other ingredients. You can leave the skin on or remove it depending on your preference. To remove the skin, score a small 'x' on the end of each peach and blanch in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then remove and place in cold, ice water to stop the cooking process. Then you will be able to easily peel the skins off with your fingers. Check out my tomato sauce recipe for a demonstration of the technique with tomatoes. I chose to keep the skins on because it adds colour, flavour and texture to your pico de gallo. Not to mention, most of the nutritional benefits of a peach are found in the skin.

There are different ways of removing the stone from a peach. Some people separate two halves and then carve out the stone with a spoon. I've never had much luck with that technique and it's more of a hassle than the way I prefer, which I will show you.

First, get a beautiful, fresh, local peach.





Use a sharp knife to slice along the crease of the peach until you have cut it in the middle all along the stone. Gently grip each half of the peach with your hands and twist in opposite directions. The two halves will easily separate. The stone will be attached to one of them.




Take the half with the stone still in it and use the knife to slice along the stone in two equal quarters.




Firmly grip each quarter with your hands and twist in opposite directions. This will cleanly free one of the peach quarters from the stone.




At this point you should be able to easily pluck out the stone with your fingers. 




Then all there's left to do is dice them up and add them to the tomato, shallot, jalepeño and cilantro. 




Wash and towel dry a lime and use a zester or grater to remove the zest and add to the other ingredients. Then roll the lime against a flat surface a few times to soften it a little. Slice the lime in half and squeeze out the juice into the pico de gallo.




Add the olive oil, season with salt and pepper then stir to combine. It's that simple. Traditional pico de gallo doesn't have any peach in it. If I were to make a regular pico de gallo I would add a little freshly grated garlic into it as well. I omitted it here because I don't think it would work well with the peaches in this version. 




Set the pico de gallo aside and carry on with the pork chops.


Ingredients

2 pork chops
2  tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt & Pepper


Preheat oven to 375F/191C.

Pat the pork chops dry with paper towel and season liberally with salt and pepper. 





Heat a skillet over medium-high and add the olive oil. Wait for it to shimmer.





Add the pork chops to the oil. You should hear a sizzle.  Add the butter, crushed garlic (no need to peel) and thyme to the pan. As the butter melts, it will infuse with the flavour of the garlic and thyme. Once in a while, tilt the skillet to gather some of the melted butter with a spoon and use it to baste the tops of the pork chops. After 2 minutes, flip the chops once and baste the other side for an additional 2 minutes. 




If your pork chops have a fat cap on the sides, then hold the chop up with a pair of tongs and sear the fat off. Then place the whole skillet in the middle of your preheated oven for about 8 minutes or until you just read an internal temperature of 160F/71C in the middle of the chop. Remove the chops from the pan and set them aside to rest for at least five minutes. 


  

Whether you decide to make the pico de gallo, the pork chops or both together is entirely up to you. This pork chop technique can be paired with an array of other side dishes. You could even make a pan sauce while the chops are resting (white balsamic vinegar or white wine with some good quality mustard would make a beautiful sauce). The pico de gallo would be great with chicken, fish or sprinkled over salads or flatbread. 

It's a shame that the cauliflower purée didn't turn out. Oh well, you can't win 'em all. My original idea was to combine spicy, sweet and rich. The last time I tried to make a cauliflower purée I made it to thin. It must have spooked me into not using enough liquid this time (then ended up draining even more of the liquid out like a real genius). You'll just have to use a little more imagination this time around. That's a good thing though! 

At any rate, I hope you enjoyed this post and that it was able to inspire you in some way. Why not treat yourself to some tomatoes and peaches next time you buy groceries and see what else you can come up with. Now is the time.

See you again soon,

B

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