Our Memorial Day cookout turned out to be a low key affair with just Katie, Matt, and me, so we decided to get a little experimental with our menu and also really learn how to use the charcoal grill that Matt and I bought last summer.

I decided that I wanted to grill pork chops for the first time. This might not seem like that big of a deal, but I was convinced for awhile that I didn’t like grilled thick-cut pork chops. Whenever I would order them at a restaurant, they always seemed dry and kind of flavorless. However, these brined, chili rubbed pork chops I found on Serious Eats piqued my interest. (Spoiler alert: they changed my mind about pork chops.)

Also feeling inspired by some of the food we had in the south the week prior, we devised the following menu:

Chili Rubbed Pork Chops
Hoisin Barbecue Sauce
Texas Caviar
Quick Pickled Beets
Grilled Asparagus and Vidalia Onions
Sauteed Beet Greens
Sliced Avocado

I didn’t write down any sort of recipe for the grilled vegetables. We just coated them in olive oil, seasoned with salt, and grilled. As for the beet greens, Matt made them as a last minute addition so I didn’t get a chance to write down what he did. And I think the sliced avocado speaks for itself. I’ve been wanting to eat avocado with everything these days!

Here are the recipes for the rest:

Chili Rubbed Pork Chops
Adapted from Serious Eats, Serves 2

  • 2 pork loin chops, 1 1/2″ thick

For the brine:

  • 1/2 quart of cold water
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. molasses

For the rub:

  • 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

Mix together the brine ingredients in a large bowl and add the pork chops, completely submerging them. Brine them for an hour in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, mix all of the rub ingredients together in a small bowl.

Remove the pork chops from the brine, wash in cold water, and pat dry. Season them heavily with the rub and put them back in the refrigerator for two hours.

After two hours, let the pork come to room temperature. Meanwhile, build a two zone fire on a charcoal grill by putting a thin layer of coals on one side, and the rest piled up on the other side.

When the pork chops are at room temperature, place them on the hotter side of the grill. Grill for about 3 minutes per side, or until each side is browned. Then, move them to the cooler side of the grill and cover. They are done when an instant read thermometer registers 135°F (or until you just assume they are done, like we did). Remove them from the grill and tent with foil. Let rest for five minutes.

The pork was cooked perfectly for me, but I really don’t know what temperature they were. I would guess we cooked them to about medium. They definitely stayed juicy, and the brine and rub made them incredibly flavorful.

Hoisin Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from Serious Eats recipe, makes about 2 cups

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbsp.)
  • 2/3 c. hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 c. ketchup
  • 1/3 c. dry sherry
  • 1/3 c. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Sriracha
  • 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Then add the garlic and cook for just about 30 seconds.

Add the the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer for about 25-20 minutes, stirring occassionally. Serve at room temperature.

I had to make a couple of tweaks from the original recipe. It called for Szechuan peppercorns, which I didn’t have on hand and didn’t feel like buying. I also haven’t replaced my broken blender, so I didn’t blend it like the original recipe called for. While I think the numbing spice from Szechuan peppercorns would be amazing, I don’t think our sauce needed it because the pork chops were already spicy!

Texas Caviar
Serves 4-6

  • 2 cans of black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • Half of a jalapeno, minced
  • Half of a red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • Half of a red onion, finely chopped
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 8 cup cilantro, chopped

Mix together all of the ingredients from the black eyed peas through red onion in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add equal parts vinegar and olive oil until dressed to your liking, seasoning along the way. Let sit for at least an hour. Right before serving, add the scallions, cilantro, and additional seasoning if necessary.

For such a simple dish, this was surprisingly flavorful and a refreshing side for the pork. I’m pretty sure the leftovers were devoured by lunchtime the next day.

Quick Pickled Beets
Adapted from Simply Recipes, Serves 4-6

  • 2 beets, cleaned and greens removed
  • 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt

Wrap the beets tightly in foil and place in a 350°F oven for about an hour, or until soft. When they are cooled enough to touch, peel the beets and cut into 3/4 inch cubes.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and olive oil. Add to the cubed beets and let marinade for at least 30 minutes. Season to taste.

The sweet, tangy beets were also a great compliment to the pork. I look forward to keeping pickled vegetables in the refrigerator all summer!

We washed it all down with a lot of Rosé. I honestly don’t know why I bother drinking anything but Rosé when the weather gets warm. It just screams cookout to me.

What are your favorite cookout dishes (and drinks)?

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