Spice Rubbed Cowboy Chops
While rebuilding the rotten old slug infested deck in our backyard, Mike has been spending a lot of time with my father. This is good, right? You know, some man to man time where they can bond over testosterone fueled demolition and manual labor? Yeah. So they’ve been bonding, all right. Maybe bonding a little bit too much. It appears that Mike has decided to harness this situation as an opportunity for raising the bar on familial pressure, to his own malevolent ends.
For example, the conversation a few days ago:
Mike: “Oooh, you’re bringing food? Food like meat? That’s great! Tina doesn’t let me eat meat very often…..”
Father: “What? She restricts your meat? When you need the strength, right now, more than ever? Doesn’t she know that men NEED meat? Because we’re MEN.”
Mike, looking as sorrowful as possible: “Well, she lets me have meat once in a while but only when she says I deserve it. The rest of the time, chickpeas….beans…..” He leans in conspiratorially. “….and she keeps trying to trick me into eating TOFU.”
Father: “Oh no! No, she doesn’t!! *Bleeeech* Her mother does the same thing, I have to keep a CONSTANT EYE on what she’s doing in my kitchen. Don’t worry, I’ll talk some sense into her. BETTINA! ” <-note: there are four people who can get away with calling me Bettina, and two of them provided me with a full complement of chromosomes. I strongly suggest that you don’t pick up on this habit. “Bettina, you need to cook Mike more meat. What you’re doing just isn’t fair to the poor man.”
Are you kidding me? Seriously? You’re going to sic my FATHER on me every time I make a vegetarian entree? I don’t think so. As a result, in a spiteful and vindictive monkey’s paw fashion, I gave him what he wanted. I made meat. Specifically, pork chops.
Mr. Carnivore has a number of fine food foibles, and one of them is a mistrust of anything porcine beyond sausages and bacon. He says that it’s a ‘texture thing’, referencing fatty gobbets of pork chop with that alarmingly distasteful chew-chew-chewing of the fat. It was ages before I was able to trick him into eating pork tenderloin, and after just one good roast he was convinced that it was the only pork that he’d enjoy. I’ve let this ridiculous charade lie fallow for the last couple of years, focussing my culinary rail-roading on tofu and squid instead, but not anymore! Oh, no. The time had come for him to look this piggy in the face and tell me, honest and truly, if he didn’t like a good spice rubbed pork chop.
Spoiler alert: He liked them. A lot. Even cold as lunch time leftovers the next day, he liked them.
I love a simple spice rubbed meat because it’s so fuss free. Really, you have minimal prep time and those 2 minutes of ‘work’ yield a devilishly delicious seasoned dinner. This Southwestern cowboy style rub is a slightly sweet, slightly hot, punch packed spice blend that I find utterly addictive. It’s just another take on the pervasive cocoa and chili rubbed pork that’s been doing the rounds for the last year or two, and if you haven’t tried some variation of this rub…well, you should. The rich burnt sweetness from the brown sugar tangoes right up to smoky paprika, cumin and coriander. They dance well into the night through a hazy, heady cloud of cocoa and cinnamon. If that’s not a recipe for romance, I just don’t know what is.
Spice Rubbed Cowboy Chops
Serves 6-8 using 1/2 of the spice rub mixture
- 6-8 pork loin chops (each 3/4 – 1″ thick, about 2.5 lbs)
Cowboy spice rub:
- 1.5 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1.5 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper *
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste *
* Spice rubs are a quick way to add a lot of savory flavor to your favorite protein, but don’t forget that you’re seasoning the meat at the same time. You could season the chops with salt and pepper before rubbing them down, but I like to build the salt and pepper right into the mix. How much salt you add will, as always, depend on your personal taste and preference as well as how salty your garlic salt is. You might want to start with less salt in the rub, taste it (don’t worry, a quick lick o’ dry spice won’t hurt you. I promise) and add more salt as you see fit.
Put the salt, pepper, sugar and spices into a bowl. Whisk them together until they’re combined in a uniform powder.
Generously sprinkle the spice rub all over your chops, rubbing it in with your clean hands until each piece is well coated on all sides. Let the meat sit in the spice rub for about 30-45 minutes before you cook it.
To make the chops you’ll only use about 1/2 of the spice rub mixture, but don’t even think about throwing the rest away!! This blend is delicious on chicken, brined turkey breast, and firm tofu among other things.
(Yeah, you heard me Mike? FIRM TOFU. I challenge you to goad me again.)
Grill the chops however you see fit. Because pork loin chops tend to be quite lean with just a bit of fat cap, I do my best not to overcook them. Or, should I say, I stand by like a harpy with my hands on my hips as Mike grills them, and I maintain a constant stream of queries, fretting and unnecessary advice until he gets cranky and makes me finish them myself. So! This is how I grill lean chops:
Make sure that your meat is at room temperature. Turn your grill on to moderate heat and then turn off the burners on one side. Grill the chops above the lit burner for about 3 minutes per side before scooting them to the cool half of your grill. Cover the chops with a heatproof tray (like an aluminum baking pan) and let them stay there for another 6-8 minutes, or until they’re firm and cooked through. If you were to be all technical about things, you want the pork to reach an internal temperature of about 135º, so I take it off when it’s just shy of that (the temperature will rise another few degrees as it rests). When you take the pork off your grill, tent it with aluminum foil and let it rest for roughly 10 minutes before serving so that the juices can redistribute themselves.
In classic cowboy fashion, we chowed down with an old fashioned dilly potato salad and some freshly boiled corn on the cob.
The sugar adds just enough sweetness to the blend and encourages the chops to caramelize on the grill in a most tantalizing way.
My cowboy certainly liked these chops, eating two for dinner and another two for lunch the next day before asking me if there was any spice rub left so I could make them again…sometime soon. Really soon. Like tomorrow?
Pfffft. Doesn’t like pork chops indeed.