Monday, July 5, 2010

Vietnamese-Style Pork Chops with Rice Noodle Salad

The last time I visited the meat counter at Fairway I picked up a few gorgeous bone-in Berkshire pork loin chops.  They were absolutely beautiful.  We were struggling trying to figure out what recipe to make with them because with every recipe we came up with we were missing at least one essential ingredient and neither of us was willing to go to the grocery store.  It's just way too hot out for a trip to the grocery store if you don't really need to go.  So Alex came up with the idea of making some Vietnamese-Style Pork Chops.  We tried making Lemongrass Pork Chops Over Rice back in January, which were really good, but we wanted to try something new.  So Alex decided to wing it a little and came up with this marinade/recipe.  While Alex worked on the pork chop marinade and the nuoc cham (we used my go-to nuoc cham recipe from Andrea Nguyen), I threw together the rice noodle salad.  I also prepped a Spicy Napa Cabbage Slaw with Cilantro, which I will post about tomorrow (once the flavors have time to really meld together in the fridge).

As I remember it, the Lemongrass Pork Chops over Rice that we prepared last time had more flavor and were a little bit juicier, but that is probably due to the difference in marinating time.  With that recipe we marinated our chops overnight in the fridge.  This time we only marinated the chops for an hour.  Also, our chops last time were thinner so the flavor from the marinade really permeated the entire chop.  However, tonight's pork chops were somehow less tough than our last attempt.  Perhaps that is due to being cooked on the bone?  Who knows.  With all of that said, I really liked the pork chops we made tonight.  Dipped in the nuoc cham they were delicious.  I also think that the rice noodle salad was the perfect accompaniment - it lightened everything up and gave the meal some much-needed freshness considering it was a high of 99 degrees F outside today.

Recipes after the jump!

Vietnamese-Style Pork Chops

3 tbsp lemongrass, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1/2-1 serrano chili, sliced thin with seeds (depending on how hot your serrano is you can either use a whole chili or just 1/2 - ours was blow your mouth out spicy so we just used half)
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp Vietnamese fish sauce (nam pla)
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 3/4 pounds bone-in, pork loin chops (2 chops, each about 1 1/4 inch thick)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
lime wedges (for garnish)
1 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped (for garnish)
nuoc cham dipping sauce

Combine lemongrass, garlic, honey and nam pla in small nonreactive bowl. Add lime juice and pepper. Rinse pork chops and pat them dry. Place pork chops and marinade in a resealable plastic bag. Allow pork chops to marinate at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Remove pork chops from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the oil and swirl around to coat the pan. Once oil is very hot, add the pork chops - making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Sear the pork chops until golden-brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Flip the pork chop back over to the original side and throw the entire pan in the oven. Cook pork chops in the oven until they are cooked medium, about 4-6 minutes. Remove pork chops from the oven and allow to rest on a cutting board at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Serve pork chops on top of rice noodles with nuoc cham dipping sauce, garnished with lime wedges and cilantro.

Rice Noodle Salad

1 6.75-ounce package rice stick noodles (maifun)
nuoc cham dipping sauce
2 cups sugar snap peas, cut on the bias into 1/2-inch thick pieces
1/2 large English cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Cook rice noodles according to package instructions. Allow to cool. Toss with 1/2 cup nuoc cham. Add sugar snap peas, cucumbers, carrots, mint and cilantro to noodles. Toss to combine. Season to taste with additional nuoc cham if necessary.

Nuoc Cham (Basic Dipping Sauce)
Into the Vietnamese Kitchen:  Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavor
By Andrea Nguyen
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (juice from 2-3 limes)
1 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar (optional)
3 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup lukewarm water
5-6 tbsp fish sauce
2-3 Thai chilis, thinly sliced (can substitute serrano chilis)
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

In a small bowl, combine lime juice, sugar and water.  Whisk to dissolve the sugar.  Add fish sauce, starting out with 5 tbsp and adding more to taste if necessary (we used the full 6 tbsp).  Aim for a light honey or amber-colored sauce with a balance of sour, sweet and salty.  Add chilis and garlic.  Stir to combine.  Allow to sit at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

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