Grilled Pork Chops with Chorizo, Dates and Manchego Stuffing

Pork chops are one of the most popular meats for grilling. There are several reasons why, including that they’re versatile, quick to prepare, are relatively lean and go well with a lot of different seasonings.

But one thing only about one in five Americans  realize is the potential of this endlessly inspiring option, according to the new “However You Chop It” survey.

Here’s a recipe from Chef Madison Cowan that demonstrates just what you can do with a pork chop. Cowan, Grand Champion of the popular cooking competition, “Chopped,” recent winner of “Iron Chef America” and also the star of  the new television show, “No Kitchen Required,” says when it comes to versatility, it’s hard to beat pork chops.

“I’m a firm believer that chops are a great cut to inspire a bit more creativity in the kitchen. It’s ideal to keep a couple go-to chop recipes in your back pocket, but why not spread your culinary wings and try a new flavor combination or technique? I find that experimenting in the kitchen can be a revelation, often leading to new family favorites.”

Here’s one of his creative recipes, in which he stuffs whole chops with a savory sausage, date annd cheese filling.

Grilled Pork Chops with Chorizo, Dates and Manchego Stuffing
6 double-thick bone-in rib chops, about 12 ounces each
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup sea salt
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
½ gallon iced water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound smoked Spanish chorizo, diced
2 medium celery, finely chopped
1/3 cup pitted and finely chopped dates
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Manchego or sharp Cheddar cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To brine pork chops:  Bring vinegar, brown sugar, salt, mustard, and peppercorns to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve salt.  Do not inhale fumes.  Transfer to large, deep food-safe container.  Let cool until tepid.  Stir in iced water.  Submerge chops in brine.  Refrigerate for 3 hours, no longer.
To make stuffing: Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add celery, dates, and shallot, and cook, stirring often, until celery is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, sage, and paprika. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.  Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Remove chops from brine, rinse under cold water, and blot dry with paper towels. Cut a horizontal pocket in each chop to the bone using a sharp knife. Spoon equal amounts of stuffing into each chop, and close each opening shut with wooden toothpicks. Do not overstuff the chops; you may not use all of the filling.
Prepare a medium fire in an outdoor grill. (For a gas grill, preheat to about 400 degrees. For a charcoal grill, let the coals burn until covered with white ash and you can hold your hand about an inch above the cooking grate for 3 seconds.) Brush cooking grates clean. Grill pork, with the lid closed as much as possible, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the center of a chop reads 145 degrees, about 15 minutes. Remove from the grill and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove toothpicks and serve.
Yield: Serves 6.