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Full steam ahead: The 'dog days' of summer are a perfect time to start thinking about fall fare

By Wolfgang Puck, Tribune Content Agency on

We're now in the middle of a part of summertime known as "the dog days." Although that term began in ancient Rome to signify the time when Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, rose in the night sky, most people today associate it with weather so hot and sultry that dogs and humans alike lie down panting, unable to move.

But autumn is now only a month away. And in many households, it can feel like that season is even closer. Especially since many children are already back in school and it's only a week and a half until Labor Day, which many people regard as summer's unofficial end.

So I'd like to help get you ready for the coming season with an easy-to-make recipe for a main dish that will gather the whole family around the dining table. My recipe pomegranate-marinated pork chops with braised greens is hearty, but still light and lively enough in its flavors to feel perfectly appropriate even in the warmer weather most of us are experiencing right now.

I think pork chops are a wonderful meat to serve for a family meal. Today's pork is bred to be leaner than in the past, which is why I like to cook it just until it's still slightly pink in the center -- a safe bet thanks to modern industry practices. In an extra effort to keep the meat moist and juicy, I like to start not with individual pork chops but a larger rack of pork that I first brown on the stovetop and then finish cooking in the oven. Ask your butcher for one if you don't see it on display, and request that it be "frenched," a trimming process that exposes the ends of the individual bones.

Also adding moisture, as well as flavor, to the meat is a marinade -- part of which becomes the sauce for the final dish -- based on pomegranate juice, which you can now find bottled in most supermarkets. I flavor it with a wonderfully complex-tasting combination of Asian seasonings (including sweet-tart tamarind paste, which can also be found in well-stocked markets and Asian food stores) that I think perfectly complement the mild, slightly sweet taste of the pork itself. A bed of braised greens adds still more satisfying flavor and texture, giving you a great side dish to go with the meat.

I hope you'll try this dish for a family supper within the next week or two. One taste, and I'm sure you'll want to add it to your post-dog-days repertoire of dishes that will be perfect for your soon-to-come autumn entertaining.


Serves 4


1/4 cup (60 mL) peanut oil

4 dried red chiles

2 cups (500 mL) bottled pomegranate juice

1/2 cup (125 mL) rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup (60 mL) soy sauce

6 ounces (185 g) tamarind paste

1/2 cup (125 mL) packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped garlic

1/2 cup (125 mL) thinly sliced peeled fresh ginger

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and chopped

2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted in a small, dry pan just until fragrant, then crushed

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1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper


1 (8-rib) pork rack, about 6 pounds (3 kg), bones frenched

Pomegranate marinade (recipe previous recipe)


Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (120 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

9 ounces (280 g) unsalted butter

2 ounces (60 g) thick-sliced smoked bacon, cut into large cubes

2 whole unpeeled heads garlic, cut in half horizontally

2 pounds (1 kg) organic kale or mustard greens, washed, trimmed, stems removed, leaves cut into 3-inch (7.5-cm) squares

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) organic low-sodium chicken broth or stock

First, make the pomegranate marinade: In a saute pan, heat the peanut oil over medium heat. Add the chiles and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Transfer to a deep casserole dish and add the pomegranate juice, vinegar and soy sauce. Stir in the tamarind and brown sugar until dissolved; then, stir in the remaining marinade ingredients.

Place the pork rack in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours. Remove the pork from the marinade, pat dry with paper towels, and season all over with salt and pepper. Divide the marinade into 2 portions and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).

In a large saute pan, heat 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat. Sear the pork until golden on all sides. Carefully transfer the rack to a roasting pan and roast in the preheated oven, basting every 5 minutes with half of the reserved marinade, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat not touching bone registers 150 F to 160 F (65 C to 70 C). Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the remaining half of the marinade to a boil and reduce until thickened to coating consistency; then pour through a wire strainer into a clean pan. A few pieces at a time, whisk in 4 ounces (125 g) of the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve.

At the same time, prepare the greens: In a saute pan, heat the remaining olive oil. Saute the smoked bacon and garlic until golden. Add 4 ounces (125 g) butter and, when melted, add the kale or mustard greens and season with salt and pepper. Deglaze with 3/4 cup (185 mL) chicken stock, stirring and scraping to dissolve the pan deposits. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep warm.

To serve, mound the greens in the centers of 4 serving plates. Cut the rack of pork between the bones into individual chops and rest them against the greens. Ladle the reserved pomegranate sauce over and around the chops and serve immediately.



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