Grilled Lemon Grass Pork

Vietnamese cooks love thin pork chops because the chops pick up seasonings quickly, cook fast, and taste great—perfect for a weeknight meal. Sold at many supermarkets, the skinny chops have either a curved rib bone or T-shaped bone. An edge of fat and marbling signal good flavor. You can marinate the pork in many ways, but lemongrass is a signature Viet flavor.

Serve these chops with rice and grilled vegetables; season the veggies with leftover marinade, salt, pepper, and oil, and then add to the grill. Add a side of a pickle for tangy crunch. To make the marinade without a food processor, mince the garlic and shallot, transfer to a large bowl, and mix with 3 tablespoons grated or minced lemongrass (or lemongrass paste) and the remaining ingredients.

MARINADE

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped shallot, or 3 tablespoons roughly chopped yellow onion

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh lemongrass (from 2 medium stalks)

2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar

Rounded ¼ teaspoon recently ground black pepper

1½ tablespoons canola or other neutral oil

1½ tablespoons fish sauce

1¼ teaspoons soy sauce

½ teaspoon molasses, dark amber honey, or Caramel Sauce (this page)

4 thin-cut bone-in pork chops (about 6 ounces each), about ½ inch thick

½ cup Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce (this page; optional)

To make the marinade In a small food processor, combine the garlic, shallot, lemongrass, brown sugar, and pepper and whirl to a fine texture. Add the canola oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, and molasses and process until relatively smooth, like a wet paste. Transfer to a medium bowl.

Use a paper towel to blot excess moisture from the pork. Add the pork to the marinade, turning to coat well, then cover and set aside to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Or, refrigerate for up to 24 hours; let the meat sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.

Warm a cast-iron stove-top grill pan over medium-high heat, prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium-high (you can hold your hand 6 inches above the grill for 3 to 4 seconds). Grill the pork chops for 5 to 7 minutes, turning frequently, until firm and cooked through. Pierce with the sharp point of a knife to test (it’s okay if the center is faintly pink). Transfer to a plate and let rest for five to ten minutes.

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