- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

There are many reasons to live in New England, but according to my spouse (a born and bred Southerner), the cold, unending winter is not one of them.

Spring comes late to Massachusetts, but when the new season actually does arrive, snow-weary residents embrace it with giddy enthusiasm.

Verdant lawns, daffodils and trees heavy with perfumed blooms tempt us to move outdoors. Patios are swept, decks are spruced up, porches are opened, and our entertaining shifts quickly from indoor to alfresco settings.

By Memorial Day weekend, grills are out in full force and home cooks are ready for a change to lighter, more casual fare to complement the warmer weather. For the holiday honoring those who have served in our military, I’m especially excited about this year’s menu.

My inspiration came from a recipe for citrus-marinated pork chops that I sampled late last summer at a cookout. Friends served a platter of thick grilled pork chops that were charred on the outside but juicy and tender beneath.

The chops were so good, I asked how they were prepared. “Nothing to it,” the hosts replied. They had marinated the meat the night before in a mixture of orange, lemon and lime juices and zests. Ground cumin, soy sauce and honey rounded out the flavors in the marinade.

My friends call the dish “Florida pork chops” in honor of a Floridian who had shared a slightly different version made with chicken.

Three things are key to the success of this dish.

First, you need 1- to 11/4-inch-thick chops.

Second, you should buy center-cut pork chops but ask that they come from the rib end, which is more marbled.

The extra marbling will keep the meat moist when cooked.

Finally, do not overcook the chops. They should be cooked though and have a faint pink hue when done.

As side dishes to the pork chops, there will be a black bean, red onion and avocado salad tossed in a vinaigrette dressing, plus grilled sweet potatoes seasoned with lime and honey. Strawberry and blueberry shortcakes will complete our celebration.

Florida grilled pork chops

6 (1- to 11/4-inch thick) center-cut (from the rib end) pork chops, trimmed of excess fat

3 thick-skinned oranges

3 large thick-skinned lemons

3 limes

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoons ground cumin

Vegetable oil for oiling grill rack

Kosher salt or sea salt

1 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Place pork chops in a shallow nonreactive dish or in a large heavy-duty resealable plastic bag.

Grate two of the oranges to yield 2 teaspoons zest, and then juice them to yield cup.

Place zest and juice in a mixing bowl. Grate two of the lemons to yield 1 teaspoons zest, and juice them to get 1/4 cup juice. Add to bowl. Repeat with two of the limes, zesting to get 1 teaspoons and juicing to get 1/4 cup. Add to bowl.

Stir soy sauce, honey and cumin into the bowl of citrus juices, and whisk well to mix.

Pour mixture over pork chops in dish and cover with plastic wrap or pour into plastic bag and seal. Marinate at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, turning occasionally.

When ready to cook, oil a grill rack and arrange 4 to 5 inches from heat source. Prepare grill for a hot fire (high temperature).

Grill chops until cooked all the way through with a slight pink hue, about 6 minutes per side for 1-inch chops; slightly longer for 11/4-inch chops. Time will vary depending on type of grill and intensity of heat. When done, remove to a serving platter.

Cut three thin slices each from the remaining orange, lemon and lime. Cut each round in half so you have half-moon shaped slices. Sprinkle chops with salt, and arrange overlapping slices of orange, lemon and lime on top of each.

Sprinkle chops with cilantro. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.


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