Continuing on our ethnic culinary journey, this recent meal heralds from Armenia. Bone-in, blade-end pork loin chops are the best cut for this Armenian Grilled Pork with Pepper Sauce recipe because they contain a good amount of fat, which keeps the meat moist and flavorful; rib chops will work, too, but because they are leaner, it’s important not to overcook them.
The sauce that accompanies these chops was inspired by an Armenian grilled vegetable recipe called summer khorovats. It’s excellent with any grilled pork or chicken. (You will need a disposable foil pan for cooking the vegetables.) To recreate khorovats, or Armenian barbecue, use thick-cut, bone-in pork chops, marinate them in a mix of onion and oregano, then grill them with wood chips to infuse the pork with smokiness.
Don’t soak the wood chips before wrapping them in foil. Dry chips smoke more readily, which is desirable for quick-cooking foods such as pork chops. After placing the pork on the grill, don’t open the lid for 10 minutes. This allows the smoke to collect and create a more intense smokiness in the chops.
For just the two of us, we cooked only two chops as opposed to four. But they were huge, and in my case at least, I could only eat half of it. Plus, we had hickory wood chips on hand instead of apple, which might have resulted in a slightly different flavor profile, but I doubt one that would be too discernible.
You can make the meal without the skewered potatoes, but I recommend you don’t. They are fabulous, especially when cut up and mixed with those luscious peppers and tomatoes. I’m not gonna lie to you, the meal required quite an assortment of pots, pans, trays and other cookware. But my oh my, it was Magnifico!
Armenian Grilled Pork with Pepper Sauce
FOR THE PORK CHOPS:
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into large chunks
- 3 Tbsp. dried oregano
- kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 4 10- to 14-ounce bone-in pork chops, each 1 to 1½ inches thick
- 3 Tbsp. salted butter, cut into 4 pieces (placed on the chops as a finish)
- 3 cups apple wood chips (for smoking)
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 1 pound plum tomatoes (4 medium), cored
- 12 ounces Cubanelle peppers, Hungarian wax peppers or Anaheim chilies, stemmed, kept whole and seeded
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 12 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 Tbsp. (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, divided
- ½ tsp. dried oregano
- 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- kosher salt and ground black pepper
- To prepare the chops, in a food processor, combine the oil, onion, oregano, 2 tablespoons salt and 1 tablespoon pepper. Process to form a coarse paste, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
- Using a paring knife, make verticals cuts spaced about ½ inch apart into the fat on each chop. In a large ziploc, add the chops to the onion paste and turn to coat, rubbing the mixture into the meat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before heating the grill.
- Loosely wrap the wood chips in a 12-by-18-inch sheet of foil, forming a flat packet roughly 7 inches square. Poke several holes in each side of the packet.
- Prepare a grill for indirect, high-heat cooking. For a charcoal grill, pour a heaping chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed and set the wood chip packet on the coals; open the bottom grill vents and lid vents.
For a gas grill, place the wood chip packet directly on one burner that will remain on during cooking; turn all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate. If using a gas grill, turn off one burner, leaving the remaining burner(s) on high.
- To prepare the sauce, while grill heats, in a large bowl, toss the tomatoes, peppers and oil.
- Place the vegetables on the hot side of the grill, then cover and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer to a disposable foil pan and add the garlic, 2 tablespoons of butter and the oregano. Cover with foil and poke a few holes in the foil, then place the pan on the cool side of the grill.
- Scrape any excess marinade off the pork chops and place the chops on the cool side of the grill alongside the foil pan. Cover the grill, positioning the lid vents over the pork chops if using a charcoal grill. Cook without lifting the lid for 10 minutes.
- Move the chops to the hot side of the grill and cook, uncovered and turning occasionally, until well-browned on both sides and the centers near the bone are just barely pink when cut into or reach 135°F, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Transfer to a platter, place 1 piece of the butter on each chop and tent with foil. Let rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, uncover the foil pan; the vegetables and garlic cloves should be completely softened. Using a fork, mash the vegetables until broken down but a bit chunky. Use tongs to remove and discard any large pieces of tomato or pepper skins that do not break down.
- Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter until melted, followed by the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with the pork.
Armenian Grilled Potatoes
When purchasing potatoes for this recipe, look for ones about the size of an extra-large egg (although mine were the size of eggs on steroids) and that weigh about 2 ounces each. And for even cooking, try to select potatoes of similar shape and size. The potatoes can be precooked and refrigerated up to a day in advance; just before grilling, skewer them, brush with lard/butter and season with salt and pepper.
You’ll need two to four sturdy 12- to 14-inch metal skewers; skewers with pins that are flat rather than round or square to help prevent the potatoes from spinning around, making them easier to manage on the grill. If you’re preparing this recipe to serve with Armenian-style grilled pork chops, place the skewered potatoes on the hot side of the grill after you’ve removed the chops and allow the potatoes to brown while the chops rest.
Don’t precook the potatoes at a rolling boil; this can cause the skins to split. Aim to keep the water at a gentle but constant simmer. Don’t skewer the potatoes without first chilling them in an ice bath. Chilling firms the potatoes slightly so that they cut more cleanly when scored with a paring knife.
Armenian Grilled Potatoes
- 2 pounds small yukon gold potatoes
- 2 Tbsp. lard or salted butter, melted
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. minced fresh oregano
- Lemon wedges, to serve
- In a large pot over high, bring the potatoes and enough water to cover by about 1 inch to a boil. Reduce to medium-high, cover partially and cook until a paring knife inserted into the largest potato meets just a little resistance, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle but steady simmer, 8 to 12 minutes.
- Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then transfer to the ice water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain again and pat dry with paper towels.
- Thread the potatoes lengthwise onto each of three 12- to 14-inch flat metal skewers, dividing them evenly.
- Using a paring knife, make 4 or 5 parallel crosswise cuts into each potato, stopping when knife blade reaches the skewer; leave the second sides of the potatoes uncut.
- Brush the potatoes on all sides with about ½ of the melted butter and season with salt and pepper.
- Prepare a grill for high-heat cooking. For a charcoal grill, pour a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed and open the bottom grill vents and lid vents; for a gas grill, heat all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate.
- Place the skewered potatoes on the hot side of the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, 7 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer to a platter, brush with the remaining butter. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and the oregano. Serve with lemon wedges.
Both recipes by Diane Unger from 177milkstreet.com