Five Spice Grilled Pork Chops with Peaches

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Disclaimer: I received compensation and promotional gifts for this post. The opinions and text are all mine, except where otherwise stated.

Confession. I'm three days into Whole 30 and sugar withdrawals have left me cranky, insatiably hungry and slowed down by brain fog. Inevitably this led to a disastrous day in the kitchen between my total lack of concentration and an unexpected rain storm. The perfectionist in me feels obligated to apologize for the photo quality, but the pork chops? No apologies. Aromatic and faintly sweet, these thick cut pork chops were seasoned simply with Chinese five spice powder and salt, then basted with spicy, garlicky lime infused clarified butter while still smoking hot from the grill. They're accompanied with fresh local peaches, lightly spiced, grilled and basted with the same butter. It's an easy dish to pull off but the flavors were bold enough to end my tortuous sugar-free day on a brighter note. I found some salvation by way of leftover coconut braised collard greens in the freezer, which I warmed up for a quick and tasty side dish.

The star of this dish is of course the five spice powder. Oddly enough, it's a spice blend I was never really compelled to use much despite loving all of the ingredients separately. However for this grilled pork chop dish, it was the first thing that came to mind to enhance the natural sweetness of pork without actually using any sweeteners. I used a blend of whole spices that contained cassia buds, clove, star anise, fennel and Szechuan pepper, which I then ground myself. The cinnamon flavor of the cassia buds combined with the licorice flavored fennel is a perfect match for pork. You really can't go wrong here. The pre-ground stuff simply doesn't have the same edge, but it'll do in a pinch.

As if a spice crusted pork chop wasn't tasty enough on its own, I basted that baby with butter in the last minute of grilling. But not just any butter. I used ghee, also known as one of my favorite ingredients as of late. Clarified butter is a fancy way of saying that butter was cooked, skimmed and strained to remove milk solids. Ghee is clarified butter that's cooked just a bit longer, but not as much as browned butter. Both ghee and clarified butter have higher smoke points than regular butter, so they are great for cooking with high heat. The flavor is more intense than butter. You can make your own clarified butter or ghee, or pick up a jar at the grocery store, usually in the Indian foods section. I've been cooking with ghee this week since it's Whole 30 approved (did I mention I gave up dairy this month too? Epic sigh.) 

As with my last post for Savory Grilled Pork Chops, it's super important to get thick, bone-in pork chops. If you don't see any already packaged, try asking somebody behind the meat counter to cut them to your preferred thickness - I requested 2" for these; anything around an inch and a half is sufficient. You want to give the pork chops time to sear on each side and the spices to develop a bit of crust, so thinner chops would overcook on the grill. Look for pork chops that have some good marbling. As the chops cook, that fat slowly renders out and makes the pork chop flavorful and moist. Because these are so big, they should just be sliced up and served similar to steak. So unless you have an exceptionally hungry person who could wolf down a pound of pork, two large chops like this should easily serve four people. All bets are off though when it comes to fighting for the most delicious part - the bone. (In case you haven't met my adorably savage toddler, she usually wins.)

Speaking of my last post, it's time to announce the winners of my #GrillPorkSweeps promotion for the National Pork Board – Pork’s Got Your Grill Covered campaign! I was looking for your ideas of the ultimate grilled pork dinner and I definitely got some great replies. Thanks to everybody who participated and shared the posts! I picked two favorites below, who will each be sent a $100 Walmart gift card as well as a grilling kit. And the winners are...
Marie Pierre: "My ultimate bbq pork dinner is by far root beer marinated pork ribs with an apple fennel slaw and classic potato salad (sometimes w/bleu cheese and bacon if I'm really going for it!)"

KCK ROX: "My fav grilled pork dish is grilled pork lettuce wraps. I use thin slice pork shoulder or pork chop (boneless) sliced into strips. The flavors are Asian inspired sweet/sour/salty. The marinade has fish sauce, soy sauce,brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, pepper, olive oil, onions, ginger , lemon grass,garlic (salt when ready to grill). I marinate the meat for a couple hours. Grill until done and nicely charred. Fill butter lettuce up with pork and various toppings like mint, basil, carrots, vermicelli noodles, jalapeño, cilantro, sriracha, bean sprouts, squeeze of lime. Oh and I usually make extra marinade and use it as dipping sauce."
Congratulations! I replied to each post to let y'all know how to collect your prize. I'd love to see some photos of your grill kit in action! If you didn't win this time, don't worry. There will be one more opportunity to pick up a grill kit and gift card, but you'll have to follow my Twitter or Instagram feed this weekend to find out how!

Welp. My nightly sugar cravings are officially kicking in, so I'm going to blitz through this recipe and head to the safety of my bed. Sigh.

Five Spice Grilled Pork Chops & Peaches

2 bone-in pork chops, 1 1/2" to 2" thick, about 2 lbs total
1 tbsp ground Chinese Five Spice
1 tbsp Kosher salt, plus additional as needed
1 lb ripe but firm fresh peaches, preferably locally grown
2 tbsp ghee or clarified butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 jalapeno, minced
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1/4 c. fresh mint leaves (optional)
Grape seed or other neutral high-smoke point cooking oil, as needed

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 min, plus at least 4 hours to brine
Cook Time: 30 min
Suggested Equipment: Charcoal or gas grill set up for indirect heat, coffee or spice grinder, instant read meat thermometer

Just as with the last recipe, I started with a dry brine to make sure the chops were well seasoned all the way through the interior of the meat. Pat your pork chops dry and massage with five spice powder and one tablespoon of kosher salt. Reserve a small pinch of five spice powder for your peaches. Don't forget about the sides of the pork chops when seasoning. If your chops are less than 2 pounds, you can reduce the amount of salt slightly - as a general rule, use about a teaspoon of Kosher salt per pound to adequately season meat. Return your pork to the fridge and give it at least 4 hours to brine, or up to overnight, uncovered. Just before grilling, baste with a thin layer of grape seed oil (or canola, safflower, sunflower, etc - high smoke point and neutral is all you need.)

I was rushing to get outside before the rain hit, so I didn't get a picture of the basting sauce prep. To prep for this recipe, I infused my ghee with an extra punch of flavor to make a basting sauce. Warm the ghee or clarified butter in a small pot with the diced jalapeno and crushed garlic over low heat. Let it simmer for a few minutes and watch for the garlic to sizzle just a tiny bit. Turn the heat off and finish with lime zest, lime juice and a tiny pinch of salt. Pour it into a small basting bowl and set aside. It's heavenly. If I was eating carbs I'd brush this shit all over some naan. 

But I'm not, because my life will be devoid of fun, carbs and sugar for the next 30 days.

To prep your peaches, just wash, slice them in half, and remove the pits. Sprinkle lightly with a pinch of salt and the remaining five spice powder. I'm really happy to say that I've found some excellent peaches this summer (last year they seemed really bland and I resorted to nectarines. Either will work for this recipe!) I definitely have noticed a difference in buying locally grown peaches versus those shipped from across the country. They're smaller, sweeter and more fragrant. And now I'm daydreaming about peach pie. Sugar cravings are the devil.

Your grill should be set up for two zone cooking, so there's a hotter side and cooler side of the grill. Brush the grates with some oil and place the chops down on the hot side to sear for a few minutes. Flip them over after they've got some good marks and a bit of a golden crust, sear on the other side for a couple minutes and then transfer the chops to the cooler side of the grill.

Depending on the size of your pork chops and temperature of your grill, they'll probably take another fifteen to twenty minutes to cook. Try to let them cook as slowly as you can from this point on. I kept the grill covered except to check on them a couple times. About halfway through, you can place the peaches on the grill too. I also cooked these on the cooler side, so they would have a chance to cook and soften without burning too fast.

Once your peaches have good grill marks and easily release from the grates, you can flip them over to continue cooking flesh side up. Monitor the temperature of your pork chops using an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the chop. For a slightly pink center I aim to pull my chops off at 140° F. 

In the final couple minutes of grilling, I basted the chops and peaches with that spicy lime ghee. And then came the rain, and with it the end of decent photo opportunities for the rest of the evening. Such is the outdoor food blogging life!

I'm partial to adding a bit of mint just before serving. It's optional, but the pop of freshness is really nice with a deeply spiced, grilled dish. Simply garnish with small tender mint leaves, or chop them up if you have some that are a bit larger. And of course, baste those luscious pork chops with a little extra ghee...because why not?

That concludes my triple recipe feature for the #GrillPorkSweeps! Between my Grilled Adobo Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa, Savory Grilled Pork Chops, and Five Spice Grilled Pork Chops with Peaches, I hope you've been inspired to consider grilling pork this summer. Be sure to visit the National Pork Board and enter to win a chance at groceries for a year as well as check out a ton of other grilled pork recipes. And for those of you who follow me on social media, stay tuned for one last chance at those $100 gift cards and grill kits!

Sponsor's Message: "No matter what you celebrate this grilling season... Pork's Got Your Grill Covered!" Visit to share your grilling holiday and find great recipes and grilling tips. Win free groceries for a year and other great prizes!

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