Barberries are tiny, tart, ruby-red fruits of the Berberis bush; dried, they appear in many Persian recipes, such as jeweled rice. Chef RJ Cooper, formerly of the Southern restaurant Vidalia in Washington, DC, uses barberries in a tangy compote for pan-seared pork chops. He will be serving a version of this dish at his forthcoming restaurant Rogue 24, also in DC. If barberries are hard to find, substitute dried cranberries or sour cherries.
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3 cups water
3 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
4 rosemary sprigs
4 whole cloves
4 allspice berries
3 thyme sprigs
1 whole star anise pod
6 bone-in center-cut pork loin chops, about 12 ounces each
2 cups dried barberries or cranberries
1 1/2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1/2 cup honey
6 cardamom pods
2 whole star anise pods
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
How to Make It
In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the pork chops and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Boil over high heat for 2 minutes. Transfer the spiced brine to a medium bowl. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Set the bowl with the brine into the ice bath and let the brine cool, stirring often.
Put the pork chops in 2 large resealable plastic bags. Carefully pour the brine into the bags and seal. Refrigerate the pork chops for 2 hours, turning a few times.
In a medium saucepan, combine the barberries with the pomegranate juice and honey. Put the cardamom pods, cloves, star anise, thyme sprigs and bay leaves in a double layer of cheesecloth and tie them into a bundle. Add the bundle to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat until the berries are softened and the juices have thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes.
Discard the spice bundle. Add half of the barberries and juices to a food processor and puree. Return the puree to the saucepan and season the barberry compote lightly with salt.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Drain the pork chops and pat dry. In each of 2 large, ovenproof skillets, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the pork chops to the skillets and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until richly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the skillets to the oven and roast the chops for about 5 minutes, until the chops are just pink in the center. Remove the chops from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the chops to plates and serve with the compote.
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