Fresh pineap­ple or­ches­trates chops sym­phony

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - KELLY BRANT

I find the aroma of fresh pineap­ple al­most in­tox­i­cat­ing. So much so that when I buy fresh pineap­ples, I usu­ally leave them sit­ting on the counter or in the fruit bowl to per­fume the house right up un­til the last minute be­fore pre­par­ing and con­sum­ing.

Prep­ping a fresh, whole pineap­ple can be a bit daunt­ing (and messy), but it’s well worth the ex­tra ef­fort for the su­pe­rior fla­vor and tex­ture. Some su­per­mar­kets sell peeled and cored pineap­ples, but these are usu­ally much more ex­pen­sive than buy­ing the whole fruits.

A trick I learned when I toured the Dole Plan­ta­tion in Wahi­awa, Hawaii, a few years ago was how to test when a pineap­ple is ready to eat. Give one of the spiky cen­ter leaves a gen­tle tug. If it re­leases eas­ily, the fruit is ready. If it does not, wait a day or two and try again. A very ripe pineap­ple will give off a heady aroma and its skin will turn from green to golden.

My pre­ferred method for prep­ping a pineap­ple is some­what dif­fer­ent from the in­struc­tions that are some­times on the pineap­ple tag.

To re­move the spiky leaves, hold the pineap­ple firmly in one hand and the stalk in the other. Twist the fruit and leaves in op­po­site di­rec­tions. If fully ripe, the spiky top will come right off. Al­ter­nately, lay the pineap­ple on its side and cut the top and bot­tom away us­ing a sharp chef’s knife. You want to re­move about ½-inch from the top and bot­tom to ex­pose the flesh. (An­other trick I learned at the Dole Plan­ta­tion is you can grow a pineap­ple plant from the twisted off top. Dry it in a dark place for about a week, then place it in a pot of gar­den soil. Here in Arkansas, you’ll need to move the pot in­doors or to a green­house dur­ing the win­ter months, but if all goes well, in 18 to 20 months the plant should pro­duce fruit.)

Stand the pineap­ple up­right on a cut end and, us­ing the chef’s knife, cut the rough skin off in long strips, ro­tat­ing the pineap­ple with each cut. Once the skin has been re­moved,

use a par­ing knife to re­move the eyes, be­ing care­ful to re­move as lit­tle flesh as pos­si­ble.

To cut the fruit into rings, lay the pineap­ple on its side and cut into slices. Use a dough­nut hole cut­ter or ap­ple corer to re­move the core.

For pineap­ple chunks or diced pineap­ple, stand the fruit on end, then cut the pineap­ple ver­ti­cally in half. Cut each half to make quar­ters. Then cut on an an­gle to re­move the core. Chop or dice as de­sired.

For gar­nish­ing drinks, don’t peel the pineap­ple, but cut it into quar­ters as di­rected above and re­move core.

This recipe calls for half a pineap­ple. I made pineap­ple-rum cool­ers with the other half by puree­ing the re­main­ing fresh pineap­ple half with the juice from the re­main­ing lime and or­ange halves from the recipe be­low, along with a few ounces of spiced rum. I served the

mix­ture over ice with a splash of club soda.

Pork Chops With Pineap­ple Salsa and Roasted Po­ta­toes

3 medium red po­ta­toes,


Olive oil

Salt and ground black pep­per 2 thick cut bone­less pork loin

chops Espresso-Chile Rub (recipe fol­lows) or other fa­vorite sea­son­ing for pork

½ fresh pineap­ple, peeled, cored and diced (about 1 ½ cups)

½ red or yel­low bell pep­per,

cored and diced

1 red chile, minced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

(green and white parts) Juice from ½ lime

Juice from ½ or­ange 1 ta­ble­spoon chopped fresh

cilantro, op­tional Pinch cumin

Heat oven to 425 de­grees. Line a rimmed bak­ing sheet with foil. Toss the po­ta­toes with a bit of olive oil and sea­son with salt

and pep­per. Ar­range po­ta­toes on the pre­pared bak­ing sheet. Place bak­ing sheet in oven and roast un­til po­ta­toes are browned and ten­der, 30 to 45 min­utes.

Mean­while, sea­son pork chops on both sides with Espresso-Chile Rub. Heat just enough olive oil to coat in an oven-safe skil­let over medium heat. Add pork chops and sear on both sides. Trans­fer skil­let to oven to fin­ish­ing cook­ing. Cook un­til pork reaches an in­ter­nal tem­per­a­ture of 145 to 155 de­grees. Cook­ing time will vary based on thick­ness of chops. Our 1-inch thick chops were ready in about 20 min­utes. Let rest 5 min­utes.

In a medium bowl, com­bine the pineap­ple, bell pep­per, red chile and green onions.

Driz­zle with lime and or­ange

juices. Stir in cilantro, if us­ing. Sea­son to taste with ground cumin.

Serve chops topped with pineap­ple salsa with the po­ta­toes on the side.

Makes 2 serv­ings.

Espresso-Chile Rub

2 ta­ble­spoons espresso


3 ta­ble­spoons ground chile

pow­der such as an­cho 3 ta­ble­spoons kosher salt 1 ta­ble­spoon brown su­gar 1 ta­ble­spoon ground black


Com­bine all in­gre­di­ents and mix well. Trans­fer to an air­tight con­tainer and store for up 3 months.

Makes about ¾ cup.

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