Ever feel stuck in a rut during grilling season? We often do, but the desire to use the grill often wins out over the lack of perceived options. Since we don’t get to spend a lot of time at home these days, we tend to focus on how we can make the most of our weekends and be as lazy as possible at the same time. I’m sure most of you feel the same. However, this year our local farmer’s market has provided a shot in the arm to our usual Sunday night cookouts.
Since moving to Richmond just before the startup of the season, we’ve been frequenting the South of the James farmer’s market. There we found a great local meat vendor – Ault’s Family Farm. I admit, they caught my eye with their sign marketing pastured pork fed on non-GMO grains. Did my eyes deceive? The allure was too strong; I’d come to the market for veggies but found myself leaving with a pair of beautiful, bone-in pork loin chops.
I knew that I wanted to grill them, and I also knew that I didn’t want to give them the same dry rub treatment that I had our steaks of the prior week. Enter the struggle with laziness. I drowsed on the sofa that Saturday afternoon, daydreaming about grilled pork. I remembered a savory, grilled pork dish that I used to order on occasion at Just Pho – a favorite restaurant of ours when we lived in Athens. It was marinated with lemongrass, and it was aromatic, sweet, salty, savory. It was a pork dish that arrested every part of the palate and demanded attention. I knew then what I was setting out to recreate.
Lemongrass is a legitimate grass – not in name only. It is used as an herb in many cuisines, particularly in Asian cooking. The flavor and fragrance have a delicate citrus quality with an earthy, spicy undertone reminscent of ginger. Lemongrass is purported to have many health benefits, most notably as a cancer-fighting herb. It also is said to reduce hypertension, lessen toxins in the blood – acting as a diuretic, and aid digestion. It is also known as citronella, so if its scent is familiar, you might have some candles bearing its fragance on your patio! Lemongrass is simple to prepare. If the stalks are whole, the root and green parts are trimmed away. Any tough outer leaves may also be trimmed. The remaining stalk can be finely sliced. Or, you can smash it with the flat side of your knife asyou would garlic, then mince the smashed lemongrass.
In the end, I came up with this simple marinade. You do a bit of chopping and mixing, then bathe your pork chops in it and let them rest while you heat the grill. I won’t say that I perfectly recreated the chops from Just Pho, but they were excellent. The flavor of the marinade paired with the fresh pork in a gentle duetto; they performed in concert perfectly. With some rice and some grilled spring onions and asparagus, we had a harmonious ensemble.
Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chops
- 1 T soy or fish sauce
- 3 T peanut oil
- 2 stalks lemongrass, smashed then chopped (about 3 T)
- 1 1/2 T rice vinegar
- 2 T honey
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 2-4 thick cut pork loin chops
In a non-reactive bowl, whisk all ingredients together until they are evenly combined. Pour the marinade over the chops and let them marinate for about 1 hour, making sure to reserve the marinade for basting the chops on the grill. You can marinate for longer in the refrigerator if you wish, or do it for an hour on the counter so that the chops come to room temperature.
Meanwhile, prepare the grill and heat the charcoal. When hot, grill the pork chops until they reach an internal temperature of 165°. Brush the pork chops with the reserved marinade while they grill. Remove from grill when done, and let rest for five minutes before slicing or serving.