Pesto alla genovese, made with basil and pine nuts, is the original pesto, and it is justly famous. I am nothing if not a traditionalist when it comes to Italian cooking, so any variations have to be justified and make sense to me before I will give them any credence.
This pesto, with parsley, sage, and almonds, is worthy and goes a long way to dress up simple meats like these pork chops. Brining is another American cooking technique that I came to appreciate very slowly, but I will selectively use it on lean cuts of meat (like pork chops) and whole chicken, where it does help keep them moist after cooking.
BRINED PORK CHOPS
- 1∕3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1∕2 cup sugar
- 1∕2 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh sage stems (keep sage leaves for pesto)
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 cups chilled dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
- 2 cups iced water
- 4 center-cut bone-in loin pork chops (about 8 ounces each)
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1∕3 cup sliced natural almonds, toasted
- 1∕2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1∕4 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves
- Finely grated zest of 1∕2 lemon
- Pinch of hot red pepper akes
- 1∕2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- To make the brined pork chops: Bring 1 quart water, the salt, sugar, sage stems, and pepper corns to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Add the wine and iced water and stir until the ice is melted and the brine is chilled. Add the pork chops and cover. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, no longer.
- Meanwhile, to make the pesto: With the food processor running, drop the garlic through the machine’s tube. Add the parsley, almonds, Parmigiano, sage leaves, lemon zest, and red pepper akes, and process until very nely chopped. With the machine running, gradually pour in the oil, followed by the lemon juice. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl.
- Drain the pork chop sand pat them dry with paper towels. Heat the oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and cook until the underside is browned, about 3 minutes. Flip the chops and cover the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook, covered, until the pork shows no sign of pink when pierced at the bone, about 10 minutes more. Transfer the chops to dinner plates. Top each with a dollop of pesto and serve. ( the remaining pesto can be covered with a thin layer of olive oil, covered, and refrigerated for up to 5 days. Serve at room temperature.)