Center cut pork chops have quickly risen to glory in the last few years. Considered to be the premium cut of the pig, they are characteristically well marbled with a thick outer fat cap along one edge with a T shaped bone dividing the loin chop from the tenderloin chop, much like a beef T-bone steak cut. There is a lot of flavor in the center cut chop, which makes it a favorite of chefs and home cooks alike.
Pastured pork really brings a lot of flavor to the table.
There’s more depth to the sweetness of the rich fat balanced with the savory toasted notes from the meat. Good pork fat will carry the aroma of the terroir from the pastures the pigs were raised in. The center cut chop embodies all of these characteristics with ease of preparation that allows for quick preparation. The strong flavors of the chop can stand up to the boldest ingredients just as easily as it can shine on its own with the proper amount of salt and a bit of cracked pepper.
For this preparation, we are going to pair our pastured center-cut pork chop with a simple Vietnamese staple dressing, Nuoc Cham, or seasoned fish sauce.
Nuoc Cham encompasses all of the universally accepted basic tastes. There is a bit of sweetness from the coconut sugar. Sour comes from the fresh lime juice. Bitterness is derived from the seed and ribs of fresh chilies. Salt and umami, or savory, comes from the fish sauce that is central to this sauce’s preparation.
We will use this sauce as a marinade first, and then we will dress the finished chops in more of the Nuoc Cham and some fresh chopped mint and cilantro.
All in all, this dish will take about an hour to prepare, including the time to marinate the pork properly.
Since Nuoc Cham is such a bold flavor, it only needs to sit for about 30 minutes in the marinade to be ready for the grill.
- Mixing bowl
In a mixing bowl, combine the chilies, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, and sugar. Mix well and set aside.
Place the pork chops in a shallow dish and pour enough of the Nuoc Cham to lightly coat all surfaces of the chops. Refrigerate the pork chop while preparing a charcoal or gas grill for high heat, direct cooking.
Once the grill surface is blazing hot, around 550 degrees, place the pork chops onto the grill and cook, turning every few minutes so as not to burn the meat’s surface. Char is good. Burnt is bad. A quarter turn every 3 minutes should give the results you are looking for. Flip after the first five or six minutes and then repeat the process for the other side. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. You want it to read 138-140 degrees away from the bone. If your chop isn’t there yet, place it away from the coals in indirect heat until the desired temperature is met.
Once the chops have met the internal temperature, remove them from the grill and set aside to rest for at least 5 minutes and up to 15 minutes. Resting allows for the natural juices to settle back into the meat and yield a juicier end result. Take the meat from the bone and slice it into ½ inch slices. Dress the sliced meat with the Nuoc Cham and garnish generously with chopped mint and cilantro.