Thursday, April 4, 2013

Smokey Cacoa Nibs Encrusted Pork Chops

Cacoa nibs are bits of cacao seeds that have been processed almost to the point of being ground for cocoa powder or made into chocolate bars. They’ve been dried, fermented, roasted and crushed. You’ve heard of the health benefits of dark chocolate? Well, cacao nibs are even better for you because they’re just the chocolate part without any sugar or milk or other additions. They’re bitter because they have so many flavonoids, the antioxidant for which dark chocolate is known. Don’t worry – the recipe isn’t for chocolate coated pork chops! Cacao nibs smell like dark chocolate but have just a hint of chocolate flavor. You can buy cacao nibs at Bloomingfoods in the bulk foods section. One fourth cup should weigh about one ounce.

(based on a recipe at

¼ cup Cacao Nibs
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 pork chops (about 2 pounds total)
3 Tablespoons fat, preferably bacon grease or butter

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Using a spice grinder, crush the nibs to the size of tiny pebbles - only 1 or 2 pulses. (If you don’t have a spice mill, place the nibs on a cutting board and pulverize them with the bottom of a heavy pan. Just don’t pulverize them too small.) Combine with the paprika, salt, and cayenne. Rub the pork chops with half of the mixture, saving the other half for the second side of the chops when they are in the pan. Let the chops sit for about 15 minutes to come to room temperature. When you are ready to fry the chops, melt the fat in an oven-proof skillet. Let it get nice and hot and then place the pork chops, seasoned side down, in the pan. Fry for 2 minutes. While they are frying, coat the bare side of the chops with the remaining cacao nibs mixture. After 2 minutes, the chops should lift easily from the pan with some tongs. If they are sticking, give them 30 seconds to a minute more. Flip and fry the second side for 2 minutes. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then check for doneness. If done, remove them to a heated (yes, that’s what the recipe says, but I don’t think I’ve ever heated a plate or platter my life!) platter and let them rest for a few minutes. If you leave them in the pan to rest they will continue to cook and will probably end up overdone, dry and tough.

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