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Dinner Tonight | LEARNING TO COOK

For Tenderness and Flavor, Use That Brine

March 28, 2001|MARION CUNNINGHAM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Before refrigeration, brining was necessary to preserve meat. Today brining is popular again among home cooks and chefs. It gives flavor and tenderness to meat and poultry. And, it is very simple to do.

At the restaurant Zuni in San Francisco, owner Judy Rodgers shared her recipe for brining pork chops. Try Judy's recipe and see if it works well for you.

I did a simple test of brining pork chops. I bought four loin pork chops and tested the first two-one not brined, the other brined for 24 hours. The brined chop was more tender when cooked, and the flavor was much better. The second test was the same, except I added a cup of rosemary sprigs to the brine and let the chop soak for 36 hours. It was better than the 24-hour brining. I am going to try chicken next.

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Cunningham's newest book is "Learning to Cook With Marion Cunningham" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999).

Judy Rodgers' Brined Pork Chops

Active Work Time: 5 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus 24 hours standing

6 cups cold water

5 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt

1 cup mixed herbs, such as bay leaves, thyme or rosemary

4 loin pork chops (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

2 tablespoons olive oil, optional, for frying

1 tablespoon butter, optional, for frying

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Combine the water, sugar, salt and herbs in a large bowl. Stir to blend and dissolve the sugar and salt. Add the pork chops to the brine, cover the bowl and put the bowl into the refrigerator. Check several times on the brining and stir any salt or sugar that has not been dissolved.

You can cook the chops after 24 hours or wait until they have brined for 36 hours. Pan-fry the chops in the olive oil and butter in a skillet over high heat or cook them in a grill pan over high heat, 8 to 10 minutes.

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4 servings. Each serving: 512 calories; 1,229 mg sodium; 97 mg cholesterol; 50 grams fat; 23 grams saturated fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 0.80 gram fiber.

Stoneware bowl from Bell Marketing Group at the L.A. Mart.

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