Vietnamese Pork Chops with Pickled Watermelon and Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta Crema

Vietnamese Pork Chops with Pickled Watermelon

Vietnamese Pork Chops with Pickled Watermelon

I’ve mentioned in other post how much I love my subscription to Bon Appetit.  When it arrives in the mailbox, I sit down and go through it page by page, dog-earing the pages with recipes I want to make.  The August issue has been particularly good.  When I saw this recipe for Vietnamese pork chops, I knew I had to try it.  I’ve been on a hardcore watermelon kick lately so the fact that the recipe included watermelon made it a slam dunk.

I’ve had bad experiences with pork chops in the past.  In my mind they’ve always been synonymous with ultra-dry, chewy stuff.  Yuck!  I am however, obsessed with Vietnamese cuisine so I thought this might be a good opportunity to give it a go and see if I could conquer my fear of making pork chops into packed dust.

As it turns out, August has finally delivered the cold, foggy San Francisco summer we warn prospective visitors about.  After the pork chops had marinated, I just couldn’t bring myself to descend into the misty, windy backyard and stand in front of the grill while they cooked.  The cast iron skillet came to the rescue and the results were absolutely amazing.

The best part of eating amazing food is sharing it with amazing people.  We shared this meal with one of our favorite people in the universe who does her research and arrived with an amazing dry Riesling that worked magic with the food.

This one takes a little preparation because you have to pickle the watermelon rind the night before, which for us wasn’t a problem because we’re up to our ears in watermelon rind at the moment.  It sound really weird, but believe me, it’s worth it.  Make this recipe and invite your favorite people to dinner.  You won’t be sorry.

VIETNAMESE PORK CHOPS WITH PICKLED WATERMELON

INGREDIENTS

PORK CHOPS

  • 2 small shallots, thinly sliced into rings
  • ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoons Sriracha
  • 4 1″-thick bone-in pork chops 
(about 2 ½ lb. total)

SALAD

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups trimmed purslane or arugula
  • ½ pound seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into pieces, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup Pickled Watermelon Rind, thinly sliced

PREPARATION

PORK CHOPS

  • Whisk shallots, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and Sriracha in a shallow baking dish. Add pork chops and turn to coat. Cover and chill, turning occasionally, 
at least 1 hour.
  • Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Remove pork chops from marinade, scraping off excess, and grill until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.  (I heated 1Tbsp of olive oil in a cast iron skillet and seared the pork chops on one side for 3 minutes, filled them and then transferred them to a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until the temperature was 145 degrees.)
  • DO AHEAD: Pork chops can be 
marinated 12 hours ahead. Keep chilled.

SALAD

  • Heat 4 Tbsp. oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain; season with salt.
  • Whisk vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add purslane, watermelon, and Pickled Watermelon 
Rind; season with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat.
  • Serve pork chops with watermelon salad topped with fried shallots.

 

PICKLED WATERMELON RIND

Pickled Watermelon Rind

Pickled Watermelon Rind

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 pounds watermelon
  • 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced, seeds removed if desired
  • 1 1″ piece peeled ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

PREPARATION

  • Using a vegetable peeler, remove 
tough green rind from watermelon; discard.
  • Slice watermelon 1″ thick. Cut away all 
but ¼” flesh from each slice; reserve flesh 
for another use. Cut rind into 1″ pieces. (You should have about 4 cups.)
  • Bring chile, ginger, star anise, salt, peppercorns, sugar, vinegar, and ½ cup water to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring 
to dissolve sugar and salt. Add watermelon rind and return to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, setting 
a small lid or plate directly on top of rind 
to keep submerged in brine, if needed.
  • Transfer rind and liquid to an airtight container; cover and chill at least 12 hours

WATERMELON GAZPACHO WITH FETA CREMA

Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta Crema

Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta Crema

INGREDIENTS

GAZPACHO

  • 1 pound seedless watermelon, rind removed, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1 English hothouse cucumber, 
 peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

CREMA AND ASSEMBLY

  • ¼ cup almonds
  • 2 ounces feta, preferably French sheep’s milk, crumbled (about ½ cup)
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • ¾ pound seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into ½” pieces (about 2 cups)
  • ½ English hothouse cucumber, peeled, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • Olive oil (for serving)
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

Purée watermelon, tomato, cucumber, jalapeño, oil, and vinegar in 
a blender until smooth.GAZPACHO

  • Transfer gazpacho to a large bowl; season with kosher salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.
  • DO AHEAD: Gazpacho can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

CREMA AND ASSEMBLY

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 8–10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can do this step in a dry small skillet over medium heat.) Let almonds cool, then coarsely chop.
  • Mash feta into sour cream in a small bowl until mostly smooth, then whisk in milk.
  • Divide watermelon and cucumber among bowls and pour gazpacho over. Top 
with crema and almonds, drizzle with oil, and season with sea salt and pepper.
  • DO AHEAD: Crema can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Open-Faced Caprese Sandwich

Open-Faced Caprese Sandwich

Open-Faced Caprese Sandwich

Open-Faced Caprese Sandwich

Sometimes simple is just better.  This is a riff on the traditional Caprese salad.  Contrary to many snobby online foodies, I think a drizzle of balsamic takes this to new and fantastic places.  Then again, I’m using a much more modest grade of olive oil than pretension would dictate.  As with nearly everything, it’s best to omit the sour grapes.

All that aside, this is a super fast, super easy, super cheap way to have a healthy weeknight dinner.  Make more than you think you’ll need.  Everyone goes back for seconds.

Caprese Ingredients

Caprese Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 good-sized heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • ½ bunch of fresh basil, whole leaves and chopped
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced  (it comes in all shapes and sizes,  — just eyeball the amount that looks right to you.)
  • fresh baguette (I used sourdough, this is SF after all, but French would work just as well)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Italian spices
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Slice baguette lengthwise and then cut each piece in half (so you have 4).  Arrange bread cut-side up on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (think subtle flavoring not saturation).  Sprinkle with minced garlic, Italian spices, and salt and pepper.
  3. Place single basil leaves side by side to cover each piece of bread.  Place tomato slices in a single layer on top of basil and sprinkle with salt.  Top tomatoes with a slices of fresh mozzarella.  Lightly drizzle top with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  4. Bake in over on middle rack for 15 minutes (or until mozzarella starts to slightly melt).
  5. Remove pan from oven, top with remaining chopped basil and serve immediately with your favorite wine.