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Dinner Rush! Sweet and Sticky Pork Chops

I’ve seen lots of savory jams popping up in food magazines and blogs lately. As the name would imply, chefs lately have taken a liking to making jams flavored with savory ingredients like mustard seeds, bay leaves, tomatoes, onions or  — everyone’s favorite flavoring agent  — bacon.

The sauce served with this week’s Dinner Rush! is a riff on this idea. While not going through the whole process a professional chef might, we’re achieving the same effect  — blending sweet and savory into a deliciously balanced sauce that’s great to serve with grilled meats, or even a cheese plate should you have leftovers.

I went with a BBQ-Thai fusion for this particular recipe, bringing in chili powder, fish sauce and lime. Experiment and use what you like; just be mindful that the more the syrup cooks the thicker it’s going to get, which will eventually mean a panful of rock candy. If the sauce gets too thick, add a splash more chicken stock to bring it back to a pourable consistency.

Sweet and Sticky Pork Chops

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients
4 (1-inch thick) bone-in pork chops
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper

Assorted grilled vegetables, such as zucchini, scallions and red bell peppers, for serving

For the sauce
8 ounces smoked bacon, chopped
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon fish sauce
Pinch garlic powder
Ground black pepper, to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime

Directions
Preheat a gas grill to medium-high (or prepare the charcoals for a standard grill and scatter them evenly in the grill).

Brush the pork chops evenly on both sides with the olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Grill the chops until marked and done to your liking, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium. Let the cooked chops rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Place a medium skillet over medium heat with the bacon. Cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until crispy and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour off the bacon fat from the pan and return it to medium heat with the maple syrup, chicken stock, chili powder, fish sauce, garlic powder and a hearty pinch of black pepper. Simmer the sauce until thickened and reduced by about a third, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Keep warm.

Serve the chops doused with the bacon-maple sauce accompanied by the grilled vegetables.

NOTE: If you’re not feeling the grill or don’t have one available, the chops are just as good prepared indoors in a cast-iron skillet. If you want a bit of starch with this meal, reach for a log of prepared polenta and grill up some slices along with the vegetables you’ll be serving.

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee and Bobby Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.

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