Few things are more rewarding than a succulent pork chop, and few things are more disappointing than one that is dried out. Grilled pork chops require care. Thyme oil infuses the chops with an herb that I find particularly beautiful with pork—it builds flavor but doesn’t take over the way rosemary might. As for the roasted grapes, everyone loves wine with pork, and wine is made from grapes, so I thought, “Why not?”
1. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels and put them on a plate. Spoon a little thyme oil on each one and turn them over in it to coat both sides. Season well with salt and pepper and top each chop with a couple of sprigs of thyme, pressing on them so they adhere.
2. Heat a charcoal grill or a large deep-ridged cast-iron grill pan over high heat. Brush the grill or pan with oil. Add the pork chops, thyme side down, and grill for about 4 minutes, or until nicely marked on the bottom. Turn and grill on the other side for about 3 minutes, or until browned but still just slightly pink inside.
3. Arrange the chops on dinner plates, with a bunch of roasted grapes on top of each one, and serve immediately.
Chilled Flavored Olive Oil
Makes about 1 cup
I had a bottle of chimichurri in my refrigerator and it struck me that when the olive oil congealed, it looked like butter. Then I thought, why not add different herbs or other ingredients to olive oil, chill it, and serve it as a condiment with all kinds of food? In the same way that you might offer a choice of mustard or ketchup, I now put a selection of oils on the table with a roast or a fish and let my guests choose. I love it when the chilled oil melts just like a pat of butter and gives you a fresh, delicate flavor. I use parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, and rosemary, each in its own container.
It is critical that you chill flavored olive oil. I wish I could say chilling oil until it becomes solid was an inspiration, but in fact it was simply what happened whenever I returned to The Island; my chimichurri and my plain olive oil would turn solid in the cold nights. The cold oil reminded me so much of maître d’hôtel butter that I decided to use it like butter.
1. Wash the herbs and pat thoroughly dry with a kitchen towel. Lay a dry towel out on a baking sheet and spread the herb(s) out to air-dry. When they are completely dry, chop and stir into the olive oil.
2. Refrigerate in a tightly covered jar until ready to use. To keep for longer than a few days, store in small portions in the freezer.
Roasted Grapes on the Vine
This recipe was inspired by a schiacciata I had in Tuscany, a bread studded with grapes that caramelize as the bread is baked and are both burnt and sweet at the same time. I had completely forgotten about those grapes until one day last summer when Donna Gelb and I visited the vineyard of my friend Alejandro Bulgheroni, near Garzón. When I tasted his grapes, which were overripe, I immediately thought of that schiacciata. All I did here was to get rid of the bread part and keep the grapes. And ever since, I have been playing with adding roasted grapes to recipes—as a garnish for meat, or as a topping for desserts.
1. Heat an horno or the oven to 475°F, with a rack in the lower third.
2. Pat the grapes dry and arrange them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over them and roast for about 15 minutes, until the grapes are nicely browned but still juicy. If they are not browned, pop them under the broiler for 3 minutes. Serve.
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Excerpted from Mallmann On Fire by Francis Mallmann (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Santiago Soto Monllor.