My goal was simple — a weeknight-friendly pork dish that was all about sticky-sweet-savory deliciousness. Neither take-out nor heavy lifting would be allowed, and versatility was a must.
The solution called for something that could marinate all day — or even all night and all day. That way I could prep it the night before, pop it in the refrigerator to get yummy, and ignore it until dinner the following night. This required a bit of a balancing act. The marinade would need to be tangy and slightly acidic, but not so acidic that it toughened the pork during what could amount to a 24-hour bath.
It also needed to be easy. I was willing to do nothing more than dump all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl, stir, then dump in the meat. Relying on mostly Asian-inspired ingredients made that easy. Most pack big flavour and can be combined with ease. I also wanted a sauce for serving with the finished pork, but I didn't want to break out more ingredients to make that happen.
That turned out to be an easy fix. All I needed to do was boil down the marinade on the stovetop while the pork cooked. Instant and easy sticky sauce with no extra effort or expense.
Finally, the versatility. My favourite recipes are those that aren't fussy about which cut of meat I use. Because sometimes I have pork chops, sometimes I have tenderloin. Sometimes I even just have chicken. Any of the above will work nicely in this recipe. If you use chicken, opt for boneless, skinless chicken thighs; they hold up to basic roasting better without drying out.
STICKY MARINATED PORK CHOPS
Start to finish: 30 minutes (plus marinating)
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon dry ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
6 boneless pork chops
Cooked rice, to serve (optional)
In a large bowl, whisk together the wine, soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, vinegar, oil, hot sauce, liquid smoke, ginger and garlic powder. Add the pork chops, turning them with a fork to ensure all of the meat is coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate at least several hours, or up to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then set a wire rack over it. Coat the rack with cooking spray.
Arrange the pork chops on the rack. Reserve the marinade. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until starting to brown and the chops reach 145 F at the centre.
Meanwhile, pour the reserved marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook for 15 minutes, or until slightly reduced and thickened. Set aside.
Once the pork has cooked, transfer it to a serving plate. Drizzle the hot marinade over it. Serve immediately, over rice if desired.
Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories; 80 calories from fat (27 per cent of total calories); 9 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 80 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 32 g protein; 890 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch