Dinner at Home
Brine, glaze, baste ...
... then sit back and bask in the compliments
Gochujang, the rusty red and sticky, thick Korean chili paste, when mixed with brown sugar, vinegar, garlic and sesame oil, perfectly balances sweet, salty, spicy and tangy. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
My brother-in-law declared this pork so "bad" he just had to clean his plate. My husband proclaimed it the best pork roast of his life. High praise indeed.
There's not much to it really, save for the purchase of red chili paste. My favorite with pork is gochujang, Korean chili paste made from red chilies, rice and soy. Add a few other simple ingredients and a big dose of patience. Then relish the compliments — even the spice-averse in my crowd were wowed.
Gochujang, the rusty red and sticky, thick Korean chili paste, when mixed with brown sugar, vinegar, garlic and sesame oil, perfectly balances sweet, salty, spicy and tangy. Soy sauce adds that fifth taste sensation — umami. Something akin to eating caramel corn and cheddar popcorn in the same handful, the sweet, salty combination keeps you coming back for more.
Alternatives to the Korean chili paste abound in most large grocery stores. I have made the glaze recipe below with Thai sriracha sauce, Chinese chili paste with garlic and Indonesian sambal oelek. When the markets overflow with fresh chilies, I like to make my own red chili paste. Cookbook author Eileen Yin-Fei Lo has a straightforward recipe for it that I find extremely versatile; I use it in the Korean sauce that follows as well as for stir-frying Sichuan green beans. Add cilantro, fresh roasted tomatoes and garlic to steer it toward Mexican dishes.
To help less-tender or super-lean cuts of pork retain moisture on the grill, I like to brine them first in water flavored with sugar, salt, vinegar, garlic and fresh orange. Pork shoulder, country-style ribs and pork loin especially benefit from brining. The shoulder should be brined overnight or up to two days in the refrigerator. Country-style pork ribs and pork loin need only a few hours of brining.
The exception: Pork tenderloin needs no brining; simply butterfly it open so it is uniformly about 1-inch thick, then marinate it in some of the red glaze for about an hour. Prepared this way, tenderloin will cook over direct heat in about 15 minutes. Make extra and serve it super-thinly sliced over salads.
Sweet and spicy crispy pork packed with smoky flavor from the grill. What more could we want? I'm thinking about a refreshing slaw and warm, grill-toasted flat breads, such as fresh pita or naan from the freezer case. Coconut sorbet with chunks of fresh mango will cool things off just fine.
Sweet and spicy red chili grilling glaze
Prep: 10 minutes
Makes: 2 generous cups
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup medium-heat Korean chili paste (gochujang)
½ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
1 piece (2 inches long) ginger root, peeled (or 2 tablespoons refrigerated ginger puree)
2 tablespoons dark Asian sesame oil
6 large cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Put all ingredients into a blender. Process until smooth. Transfer to a covered container; use within 2 weeks.
Per tablespoon: 33 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 449 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Red chili-glazed slow-grilled pork shoulder
Prep: 30 minutes
Marinate: Several hours
Cook: About 3 hours
1/2 cup each: granulated sugar, coarse salt
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
6 cloves garlic, crushed
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 large (about 5 pounds) bone-in pork shoulder blade roast
1 to 2 cups sweet and spicy red chili grilling glaze, see recipe
2 cups hickory wood chips, optional
1. Mix 2 quarts lukewarm water, sugar, salt, vinegar, garlic and orange zest in very large non-aluminum bowl or stockpot. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve. Add the pork roast. Cover; refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
2. Remove pork from the brine, discarding brine. Put pork into a glass dish. Coat well on all sides with some of the glaze. Cover; refrigerate several hours or up to 1 day.
3. Soak wood chips in a large bowl of water for at least 1 hour.
4. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-hot. For indirect cooking, arrange coals on two sides of the grill or turn off burners in center of gas grill. Place the cooking grate in place; let it heat a few minutes.
5. Put the pork roast in the center of the grill (not directly over the heat). Add a small handful of the wood chips to the coals. (For gas grilling, wrap the soaked chips in a foil pouch, pierce it with several small holes and place directly over the heat source.) Cover the grill; cook on medium-low (about 275 degrees if you have an oven thermometer), basting frequently with some of the red chili glaze, until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees, 2 1/2 to 3 hours or so. The roast should be very nicely burnished red with some crispy edges.
6. Let pork rest on cutting board about 20 minutes. Slice very thinly. Serve.
Per serving: 210 calories, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 69 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrates, 22 g protein, 1,254 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Lemon grass and cilantro slaw
Prep: 10 minutes
Chill: 30 minutes
Note: To save time, use the refrigerated ginger and lemon grass purees found in the produce section of many supermarkets.
1/4 cup each: low-sodium soy sauce, unseasoned rice vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons agave syrup or sugar to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons dark Asian sesame oil to taste
1 tablespoon each: pureed fresh ginger, pureed fresh lemon grass
1 package (16 ounces) finely shredded cabbage
2 cups very finely shredded carrots (about half of a 10-ounce bag)
Salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Mix soy sauce, vinegar, agave syrup, sesame oil, ginger and lemon grass in the bottom of a large bowl. Stir in cabbage and carrots. Mix well. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate, 30 minutes, or freeze, 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro and serve.
Per serving: 53 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 296 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.
Homemade red chili paste
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Makes: about 2 cups
Noted: Adapted from "Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking," by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (Chronicle, $50). Increase the sugar to 4 tablespoons if using in the red chili glaze recipe.
1 pound red ripe jalapeno chilies, stemmed
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 to 4 tablespoons sugar
1. Put chilies, salt and 2 tablespoons water into a medium-size heavy saucepan. Heat over high heat, stirring, until chilies start to release their liquid. Reduce heat to low. Cook, uncovered, stirring often, until chilies are soft, 15-20 minutes.
2. Let chilies cool in the pan. Transfer to a blender along with vinegar and sugar. Puree. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Keeps refrigerated several weeks or frozen several months.
Per tablespoon: 6 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 128 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.