Let's be honest, after a long day (or week) of teaching, it's hard to feel motivated to get down and dirty in the kitchen. However, I know from experience that when I eat well, I really do feel better - and cooking tasty food doesn't always have to be something that takes a lot of time and effort! For me, personally, cooking is a release. It's something I can focus on instead of the day-to day minutiae.
My first recipe for you is one that I discovered in the Betty Crocker Quick and Easy Cookbook the summer my husband and I were married. At that point in my life, I really had very little experience in the kitchen and didn't have my own "set" of recipes to use as go-to meals. Of the dozens of new recipes I tried, this recipe for chili-rubbed pork has always stuck out as a tasty meal that we both enjoy… and best of all, it's insanely delicious and doesn’t take forever to prepare!
I have made my own tweaks on the recipe, which is what I'm sharing with you today. The original recipe for Grilled Chili-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin, can be found here. Let’s cook!
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne) - this is optional, but I love the little zesty kick it gives!
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pork chops, approx. 1 lb
1-2 tsp olive oil
Preheat your oven to 350°. Start out by mixing together your dry ingredients for the rub (brown sugar, chili powder, salt, cumin, and red pepper). If you're wanting to make this on a weeknight, it's super easy to throw these ingredients together ahead of time in a plastic bag or container and store them until you're ready to start cooking!
Next, finely chop the garlic. Now, let me say here that most of the time, I buy pre-minced garlic in the container to save time. Ain't no shame in my game. If you use the pre-minced garlic, it will give your rub more of a saucy consistency because of the oil it's stored in. No worries! The outcome is just as delicious.
Let me bird walk here for a moment and tell you a funny story. I've already mentioned that I had limited experience in the kitchen when my husband I got married. When I decided to make this recipe, we just so happened to have some fresh garlic on hand, so that's what I used. I was really proud of myself for branching out and trying a new recipe; I’m also fairly certain this is the first time in my life that I had cooked with whole garlic.
I chopped and chopped the garlic, adding it gradually to the bowl of ingredients. When I finished, I thought Man, that is A LOT of garlic. I started to feel a little panicky and re-read the recipe. One clove of garlic. One clove… one clove… and then suddenly, it clicked. What exactly was a clove of garlic? I quickly learned (thanks to a Google search) that a clove of garlic is one section of a bulb of garlic. And yes, you've guessed it… I had chopped and added an entire bulb of garlic. I called my mom for troubleshooting advice (thanks, mom!), and she suggested I add some more chili powder and brown sugar to balance it out.
As we dined that evening, I didn't mention anything about my oops moment earlier in the day. I waited somewhat nervously for my husband's verdict. After a couple bites, he said, "I promise I'm not just saying this because you made it, but this is really good!" I burst out laughing and shared the accidental special ingredient. Fortunately, both of us LOVE garlic, so if you're like us (and feeling brave/aren't worried about knocking someone out with your garlic breath) feel free to add an extra clove or two!
Okay, back to the prep. Once you’re done chopping the garlic, mix all the ingredients of the rub together thoroughly.
Finally, it’s oven time! How long you bake the pork chops depends on how thick they are. Personally, I like to buy thin-cut chops (equivalent to a butterflied chop), which typically take 15-20 minutes to cook, depending on your oven. Thicker chops tend to take 30-35 minutes (again, depending on your oven). Pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°, followed by a 3 minute rest time. I don't always have a thermometer on hand (and they're not practical for thin cuts of meat); my test is usually to slice through the thickest part of the cut to check for "pinkness" of the meat, and then to squeeze both halves to see if the juice runs clear.
These pork chops are delicious served with steamed vegetables! I always keep some frozen vegetables on hand which are easy to pop into the microwave. My favorite sides with this dish are steamed broccoli or green beans with some boiled red potatoes. Mmm, mmm, mmm! We enjoyed these recently with some sauteed okra, a southern favorite from our summer garden, and homemade biscuits from my husband's grandmother. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!