A healthy, vibrant dish with flavors of New Mexico and the desert southwest! Grilled Pork Chops with Hatch Green Chile Polenta combines a green chile flecked polenta with a cumin-rubbed and grilled pork chop, and it all gets topped with a picante peach salsa… Buen provecho!
All over New Mexico, sunburned men and women
drive rickety trucks stuffed with gunny sacks
of green chile, from Belen, Beguita, Willard, Estancia,
San Antonio y Socorro, from fields
to roadside stands, you see them roasting green chile
in screen-sided homemade barrels, and for a dollar a bag,
we relive this old, beautiful ritual again and again.
~~ Jimmy Santiago Baca, Green Chile
“Chile,” not “chili!” New Mexico chile culture… ’tis one of my favorite aspects of living in the Land of Enchantment. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you have heard me wax poetic the allure of both red and green chile, and its importance in the New Mexico food culture. As August is just days away, New Mexicans anxiously await the arrival of the first burlap sacks of the fresh Hatch green chile. If schedules permit, we enjoy the 30 mile drive to a farm in Hatch, where the chile was picked that same morning. It is then roasted in a “screen-sided” barrel as Jimmy Santiago Baca so aptly describes in his poem Green Chile.
As I work on cleaning our freezer to make room for a couple of sacks of Hatch green chile, my thoughts turn to creating new, and healthier ways to use the flavorful pods. Of course chile rellenos and enchiladas are amazing, but healthy they are not! The chiles themselves are loaded with vitamins A and C. Capsaicin occurs naturally in green chile, and its health benefits include anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties. Incorporating chile into more dishes has become a priority, and I hope to publish an E-book of chile recipes in the not-too-distant future…
So, on a late July trip to our local natural foods market, I found some lovely, nearly ripe Prima peaches. You might not consider pairing peaches and Hatch green chile, but trust me, the pairing works! I have always loved pork and peaches, and pork and green chile, so arriving at the decision to combine the 3 ingredients was easy, and I was excited to get back to my kitchen. One of my goals in writing this blog is to help my readers feel confident enough to break away from the internet and recipe books, and begin utilizing fresh, local ingredients, flavor profiles and cooking methods, and a well-stocked pantry to create their own unique dishes. Freedom from recipes can make the difference between cooking occasionally, and cooking regularly. In considering how I would pull these ingredients together, I drew from my knowledge of the Mexican/Southwest flavor profile. This would include ingredients such as cilantro, jalapeños, limes, garlic, cumin, chipotle, green and red chile, etc. I decided on Grilled Pork Chops Over Hatch Green Chile Polenta.
This dish looks elaborate, and time-consuming, but it really does come together quite quickly. I’ve made it on weeknights, and did not feel pressured to get it on the table. I have made this for my lactose-intolerant son, and substituted lactose-free cheese with good results. I’ve used pork sirloin chops, and pork tenderloin, both are lean cuts and both were delicious. You want to err on the side of slightly under-ripe on your peaches, as you want them to be firm. Jalapeños really vary with respect to heat level. Try cutting one lengthwise and sniffing it. If it burns your nose, and/or makes you sneeze, you’ve got a hot one! Feel free to use more – or less – to your taste. I would suggest preparing the salsa first. Next, start the polenta. It does not hurt to cook it longer than the package instructions, and it can certainly keep warm on the stove for quite some time. Preheat your grill, prepare the pork, grill it, tent with foil, and set aside for a few minutes to allow the pork to absorb the juices. When you are ready to plate the dish, spoon the soft polenta on to the plate, top with the grilled pork, and a generous spoonful of salsa. Garnish with cilantro and a lime wedge. Serve with a simple green salad. We enjoyed this dish with a crisp unoaked Chardonnay.
Grilled Pork Chops Over Hatch Green Chile Polenta
- 2 firm peaches diced (about 2 medium peaches)
- 1 lime juiced
- 2 jalapenos more or less to taste
- 2 scallions finely chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
- salt and pepper (to taste)
Green Chile and Sharp Cheddar Polenta
- 4 cups water or 1/2 broth, 1/2 water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup green chile diced
- 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese grated (optional)
Cumin-Dusted Grilled Pork
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- ground pepper
- 1 lb. lean boneless pork (see cooking tips in post) or 4 sirloin chops
Add all ingredients to a small bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside until plating.
Green Chile and Sharp Cheddar Polenta
In a medium saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Reduce heat.
Very slowly, and in a steady, light stream, add cornmeal while stirring. If it goes into the water too fast, it will form lumps. I find that it helps to lower heat below a boil while adding the cornmeal.
Reduce heat to very low. Cover. Stir occasionally.
Look at package instructions for cook time. Typically, polenta requires 20 minutes or more to avoid any graininess.
When completely cooked, add green chile and cheese. Stir well to combine.
Replace lid and set aside until ready to plate.
Cumin-Dusted Grilled Pork
Combine ingredients cumin through pepper.
Rub mixture into the pork.
Grill over medium heat to an internal temperature of 145 degrees, and allow to rest to absorb the juices and finish cooking. This will keep the pork from being dry.
If you grilled a tenderloin, cut into 1/2" slices. If you cooked 4 chops, they can be served in one piece.
On to 4 plates, spoon 1/4 of the polenta. Top with pork. Spoon salsa over the top, and garnish with cilantro and a lime wedge.
I am always looking for ways to cut fat and calories. I have found that using half broth and half water in the polenta bumps up the flavor without adding butter or olive oil.
Substitute seasonal, fresh fruit for the peaches such as nectarines, apricots, or mangoes.
- Select lean, boneless pork. Pork tenderloin – cut in 1/2″ slices – and boneless pork sirloin chops work well. Cutting around a bone when the pork is atop a bed of polenta and topped with salsa could get messy 🙂
- I’ve used lactose-free sharp cheddar, reduced-fat sharp cheddar, and regular sharp cheddar in this recipe with good results. Sharp cheddar gives a bit more flavor, so you don’t need as much, which in turn reduces fat and calories.
- Nectarines and mangoes are good substitutes for peaches in the salsa. Go with the freshest, seasonal produce available.
- The photo shows this dish on a 7″ salad plate. This is a great way to serve if you are watching portions. It looks like more food!
- Cook the pork to 145° internal temperature. Tent with foil to allow juices to absorb and to finish cooking. This will keep the pork from being dry. For more information on cooking pork, see USDA guidelines.
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