It’s my calendar’s fault; it is supposed to keep me informed of all holidays everywhere, but the “settings gremlin” flipped a switch and here I am, blissfully sipping coffee and nibbling a croissant and it’s almost Labor Day and I’ve been in the dark.
I love blaming something like a calendar for this. Because it’s really my fault. It’s been a very, very, VERY busy few weeks what with getting Fiona off to college, via Amsterdam and way too much celebrating (not her departure.. the fact of being in Amsterdam), projects that grip and don’t let go, and the overarching focus here on La Rentrée, the return, to school and work. Which is, really, the French equivalent of Labor Day. The Nation is panicking and rejoicing simultaneously: panic because vacations are over (until the next ones in six weeks) and rejoicing because kids are going back to their very long school days.
These are lame excuses, but I’m on it now. And I know that, like me, there are many of you who welcome last minute ideas, even for moments as important as Labor Day. I’m here for you, and have come up with a perfect Last Minute Labor Day menu. It’s very simple and quick to shop for and prepare, it’s done on the grill, and it will knock out your family and your guests with its fresh, seasonal, simplicity.
Simple and elegant, this is a dish you can grill for a quick family weeknight dinner as easily as you can for a more dressed up Saturday night meal with friends. Pork is often served with something sweet, like apples or pears; here, I put the sweetness right on the pork. It lifts its flavor with deep caramelization. I suggest serving it with grilled asparagus or zucchini (pages xx), a mound of toasty bulgur (page xx), and a light red such as a Saumur Champigny.
ASTUCE: before you put the pork chops in the marinade, slit the fat around the edges so the chop won’t curl as it grills
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: whisk, bowl, rubber spatula, long tongs, long metal spatula
PREPARATION AND GRILLING TIME: at least 1 hour marinating time; 30 minutes including resting time
DIFFIUCLTY LEVEL: simple
Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and pour it into a non-reactive dish.
Place the pork chops in the marinade, turn them and using a rubber spatula, rub the marinade evenly into the pork chops. Turn them again and repeat so they are completely covered in marinade. Cover the chops and marinate them at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to several hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator, covered. Remove the meat from the refrigerator at least two hours before grilling them.
Build a medium-sized fire in the grill. When the coals are red and dusted with ash, place half of the coals on either side of the grill. Place the grill over the coals, and when it is hot, place the chops in the center of the grill. Cover and cook until the chops are grilled to a deep golden on one side, for about 10 minutes. Turn the chops and cook them on the other side until they are deep golden and are cooked through which, depending on the thickness of the chops, will take an additional 5 to 8 minutes.
Transfer the chops from the grill to a serving platter, strew some salt and grind pepper over them, and let them sit for about 10 minutes before serving so they have a chance to re-absorb some of their juices, and relax.
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SWEET AND SALTY GRILLED ALMONDS - AMANDES GRILLEES SUCRE SALEES
This is a recipe that you make in a thrice, preferably on the gas grill, then have just slightly warm and ready to serve to guests the minute they walk in the door. I make them when the grill is heated, but before I cook dinner…it’s a perfect solution for an appetizer, to serve alongside rose in the summer, champagne any time of year! Or, as I did recently, glasses of chilled Pastis, to ward off the intense heat of a mid-summer evening.
ASTUCE: you’ll need to supervise the almonds towards the end, as they can burn quickly. And when you strew the sugar don’t worry – what doesn’t stick to the almonds will burn off the grill.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: mesh gas grill, wooden spatula
Place the almonds in a large bowl and drizzle them with the oil. Toss the almonds, preferably with your hands, until they are coated with the oil. If you think you need a bit more, add a bit – but not too much – more. Strew in the salt and toss thoroughly.
Heat all three burners of the gas grill, with the mesh grill pan sitting on it. When the grill is hot, place the almonds on it and let them brown, covered, for 3 minutes. Stir them, cover, and cook until their color deepens, an additional 2 minutes. Strew them with the sugar, as evenly as you can, stir them, and cook, stirring from time to time, until they pop and are quite golden, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. The sugar that doesn’t stick to the almonds may send up some curls of smoke; don’t be concerned.
When the almonds are toasted, transfer them to a large, heatproof bowl. Add the thyme leaves, toss them, then pour them out onto a plate or platter to cool evenly. As soon as you hear your guests arrive, transfer them to a serving bowl and watch them disappear.