NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
If you’ve ever been to a Vietnamese restaurant and not headed straight to the pho section of the menu, you may have tried lemongrass pork, which is a sweet/savory grilled pork dish. I decided to incorporate these unique flavors into thick-cut pork chops (because face it, there’s only so many ways to cook pork chops) and I added a citrusy pan sauce on top for good measure.
Brining is an essential part of juicy pork chops (even the traditional Vietnamese recipe calls for marinating overnight), so be sure to start this recipe well in advance of dinnertime.
2 large, thick cut pork chops (bone-in, center cut preferred)
3 stalks of lemongrass, chopped (1/2 cup if using pre-chopped lemongrass)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp each water and fish sauce
1 tsp each sesame oil, black pepper, sea salt, tamari and potato starch
1/2 cup chicken broth
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp coconut oil
In a food processor (or my handy Magic Bullet), puree 2/3 of the lemongrass, 4 of the garlic cloves, the water, fish sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, salt and 1/2 the lime juice. Pour the mixture into a ziploc bag with the pork chops, and marinate for 2-4 hours (or overnight).
Remove the pork chops from the bag and pat dry with a paper towel. There should be some of the mixture stuck to the pork chops, which is good. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and put a heavy duty baking pan inside the oven to heat it up. Heat up the coconut oil in a different pan on the stovetop on high heat.
Sear the pork chops for three minutes on each side as the oven is heating up. Don’t discard the pan when you’re done with it!
Place the pork chops on the baking pan in the oven (which will produce a nice sizzling sound) and cook for six minutes. Flip the pork chops and cook for another six minutes. Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature – if it’s at least 130 degrees, you’re ready to take them out. Immediately transfer them to a plate and cover them with tin foil, letting it rest for at least five minutes. This part is crucial because the rest of the pork will cook while it rests, and it gives you time to whip up the pan sauce.
Return the pan you used to sear the pork chops to the stovetop, and turn the heat to med/high. Add the remaining 1/3 of the lemongrass and 2 garlic cloves and saute for about 30 seconds, then add the chicken broth, tamari and the rest of the lime juice, scraping up any pork bits that were stuck to the bottom of the pan. As that simmers for a few minutes, add a little water to the potato starch to create a milky liquid. Add this liquid to the pan, stirring constantly, and remove from the heat once it gets to your desired thickness.
Take the pork chops from the tin foiled plate and serve, pouring the pan sauce on top. One thing I should note that when tenting the pork with tin foil, they’ll only reach about 155 degrees. This means they could potentially be a little pink, which is fine (medium rare pork is the only one I’d really worry about).