Tropical Lime Chile Brined Pork Chops

With summer in full swing, backyard cookouts and parties are often based on beach and tropical themes.  In that spirit, here is a pork chop recipe for grilling that is infused with the tropical flavors of pineapple, mango, and lime.  Add some freshly ground ancho chile powder for just a touch of heat, and some assorted other flavors, let them brine for half the day, and you’ve got the perfect main dish for a pool-side cabana party!

Gather Up:

  • 4 pounds bone-in pork chops (about 6 large ones)
  • 1/2 cup kosher or sea salt
  • 3 quarts water, divided
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 oz dried ancho chile peppers, stemmed and ground in a spice mill (yield about 1/3 cup chile powder)
  • 2 tbsp Mexican oregano (this is coarser in texture and usually has the flower buds mixed in compared to the oregano in the spice aisle)
  • Zest and juice of 4 limes
  • 1/3 whole mango, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 whole pineapple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped

Start out heating 3 cups of water in a sauce pan while stirring in the salt until dissolved.  Remove from heat and add to a large mixing bowl with the remaining water.  Let sit in a sink partially filled with ice to cool.  In the meantime, combine the pineapple, mango, and garlic in a blender or food processor and puree.  Add this to the salt water, along with the lime zest, juice, and oregano.  Finally, grind the ancho chiles in a spice mill until they form a coarse powder (you may need to work in two or three batches to avoid overloading the mill).  Add this to the brine and stir everything well.  Fully submerge the pork chops in the mixture (once it has cooled) and cover.

Allow the pork chops to brine in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.  When done, remove the chops from the brine and rinse under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.  Let them stand on the counter for about 20 minutes while you get the grill started on low with smoking chips (try mesquite).

Smoke the brined chops for about twenty minutes, then increase the heat to medium-high and finish cooking them to an internal temperature of about 145 degrees (checked with a quick-read thermometer) – roughly 20 to 30 minutes including the time to get the grill up to the higher temperature.  You can toss the rest of the pineapple and the mango on the grill at this time as well, or some onions and tomatoes.

Carefully trim the chops away from the bone, then slice across.  Top with a slice of grilled mango or pineapple if you like, and plenty of grilled veggies on the side.  Serve with some coconut milk mixed with crushed pineapple pulp to drink (and a bamboo umbrella), and enjoy the sunshine!

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