Friday, June 22, 2012

Agave-Citrus Baked Pork Chops With Garlic Mashed “Potatoes”

Sweet and sour? Check. Low-Carb? Check. Delicious? Check.

If you’re tired of chicken, steaks, and fish, pork chops are a nice alternative. My favorites are the lean, boneless cuts that are on the medium-thick side. (These are harder to dry out than the really thinly sliced ones.)

When I started looking for pork chop recipes, most of the glazes and marinades called for honey. I wanted to swap out the honey for something a little healthier so agave nectar seemed an appropriate choice. Without getting too technical, agave has a lower glycemic index than honey so it doesn’t have a drastic effect on the blood sugar/insulin balance making it safe for people with diabetes. Though it’s sweeter than sugar, it’s fairly mild so it doesn’t mask other flavors. Also, it’s less viscous than honey and  easier to combine into many foods.

Marinades are an easy and tasty way to perk up meats. They also seal in moisture preventing meat and poultry from drying out in the oven or on the grill. The minimum time you want to marinate these pork chops is about an hour. (I did mine all day.)

The mashed “potato” recipe below is in quotes because it’s actually made with cauliflower. Don’t knock it until you try it, folks. It’s DELISH and a lot better for you than traditional mashed potatoes.

Agave-Citrus Baked Pork Chops
Serves 3-4


1/3 cup agave nectar (I used Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave)
1/3 cup citrus juice (I combined lime and lemon)
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper (if desired)
3-4 boneless lean pork chops
Olive oil spray

In a Ziplock freezer bag, combine agave, citrus juice, minced garlic, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Rinse pork chops and add to bag, squishing liquid around to thoroughly coat meat. Squeeze excess air from bag and seal. Marinate pork chops in fridge for a minimum of one hour. (Again, mine were in there from about 9:30 AM until 7:30 PM.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spritz the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish with olive oil spray. Remove pork chops from Ziplock bag and place in the baking dish. Pour marinade mixture over the top of the pork chops, evenly coating them. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and  flip the chops over. Use a spoon or baster to coat the tops of the meat one more time, then return to the oven and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees.

Garlic Mashed “Potatoes”
Serves 2-3

1 (12-ounce bag) cauliflower florets
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon sour cream

Cut corner off the bag of cauliflower florets and steam in microwave for 3-4 minutes. Remove carefully from microwave and use a rolling pin to “mush” the cauliflower (while it’s still in the bag). Open bag and pour cauliflower into a food processor. Add the peeled garlic clove and sour cream and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Tip:
The fastest and easiest way to get that tough outer shell off a garlic clove is this: Use the broad side of a large knife and press it down flat against the clove on a cutting board until it cracks. Then just peel off the “shell.” Voilà!

The Result:
The hubs is usually wary when he sees pork chops cooking in the oven. I’m notorious for drying them out to the consistency of jerky. Two things went right this time. 1) I did a little research and realized that the cooking temperature for cuts of pork have officially been reduced to 145 degrees—I’d been cooking it to 165 before, and 2) I turned the pork chops over half-way through baking and basted them which really helped to keep them moist and juicy.

These were hands down the best pork chops I’ve had in a long time. The sweet and tangy marinade was a nice complement to the meat (it would also be great on chicken!) and the garlic mashed “potatoes” along with a green salad were perfect sides.  It was a low-carb, healthy, and very tasty meal. We’ll definitely be eating this one again soon.

Until next time,

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