As if grilled pork chops couldn’t get any better, try stuffing them with added goodness just to gild the lily. In this recipe, I stuff thick, center-cut bone-in chops with a blend of spinach, garlic, goat cheese and crumbled bacon, along with a touch of finely-chopped rosemary and thyme.
Throw the chops on the grill until they’re nicely seared and cooked to the right doneness, then serve. To keep the chops extra moist as they cook, I like to brine them overnight in a a whiskey-maple blend flavored with toasted mustard seeds and fresh rosemary. While you’re certainly welcome to skip the brine if you wish, it infuses the chops with the liquor and flavorings, while also helping the meat retain its moisture over the hot grill.
The chops can be assembled several hours before you’re ready to grill, perfect for entertaining at home or if you’re transporting them to a party or gathering (I love to bring the chops to tailgates in the fall).
QUICK TIP: Whenever you stuff meats or fish, make sure the stuffing comes to a safe temperature along with the meat. Because the stuffing comes into contact with raw protein, it will also need to cook to a safe temperature before it is consumed. This goes for everything from stuffed turkeys and chickens, to stuffed pork chops (which should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees according to USDA guidelines).
GRILLED STUFFED PORK CHOPS
2 hours, plus overnight brining. Serves 4
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1/2 cup kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup Bourbon whiskey
2 (4-inch) sprigs rosemary, lightly crushed, plus 1/4 teaspoon chopped rosemary, divided
4 center-cut pork chops, each 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch thick, preferably bone-in
4 ounces bacon (about 3 thick slices), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
5 ounces washed and trimmed spinach
6 ounces fresh goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
Place the mustard seeds in a large saucepan heated over medium-low heat. Toast the mustard seeds just until they start to pop, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add 2 quarts water to the pot, then the kosher salt, maple syrup, bourbon and crushed rosemary sprigs. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool the mixture to room temperature.
Divide the pork chops between 2 large (gallon size) sealable bags. Add the brine and squeeze out the excess air before sealing the bags tightly. Place the bags in a baking dish (in case of leaks) and refrigerate overnight.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon crisps. Remove from heat to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside to cool. Remove all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from the pan.
Reheat the 1 tablespoon fat in the skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, then the spinach in handfuls (as one handful wilts, stir in another one, until all is added). When all of the spinach is just wilted, remove from heat and spread the spinach out on a cutting board. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, use paper towels to pat off any excess moisture, then coarsely chop the spinach. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the goat cheese, spinach, bacon, chopped thyme and chopped rosemary. Season with a few grinds of pepper. Refrigerate the stuffing until ready to use.
Remove the pork chops from the brine. Using a boning knife, slice a pocket (no more than 2 inches wide) into the side of each pork chop. You will cut a pocket through most of the chop, but leave a half-inch border all around the chop to prevent the pocket from ripping when stuffed. Divide the stuffing evenly, gently stuffing each portion into each chop using your fingers. Close the pockets with a toothpick or two. Wipe any excess stuffing from the outside of the chops.
Heat a grill over medium heat until hot. Oil the rack and place the chops on the grill, leaving a few inches between each for even cooking. You may have to do this in batches. Cover the grill and cook the chops, 6 to 7 minutes on each side, until a thermometer inserted reaches 145 degrees for medium, about 8 minutes per side for well-done. Remove the toothpicks before serving.
Note: From Noelle Carter. Adapted from a recipe I created while at the Los Angeles Times.