Summer Meal Series #4: Grilled Apple Pork Chops, Garlic Baby Potatoes, and Steamed Broccoli

This summer, I’m going to be posting a series of fifteen low-cost, tasty, and easy-to-prepare meals that are literally straight from my own kitchen.

A few days ago, I was going through the produce section of our grocery store when I noticed a great sale on baby potatoes. They’re delicious and easy to prepare in lots of contexts, so I picked them up.

Then I noticed a sale on broccoli – another sale not mentioned in the flyer – so I picked up a few heads of that for pennies.

Near the milk and fruit juices, I noticed a sale on premium apple juice – a higher quality kind than I usually buy – for about what I pay for our regular juice, so I snagged that. My kids love apple juice with their breakfast, after all.

As I walked past the meat counter, I noticed some amazing thick pork chops – and they were also on sale for $1 each, another sale not listed in the flyer.

In other words, this meal fell together almost out of nowhere.

Complete meal

This meal took about five minutes of prep work, all told. Seriously. Once the chops and potatoes were on the grill and the broccoli was steaming, I just played with the kids, and the time spent getting the meal components to that point was about five minutes.

Several hours before the meal, I took the chops out and put them in a bowl.

Chops about to be marinated

You’ll notice the “Simply Apple” juice in the background. Ordinarily, I’d just use whatever apple juice was 100% juice and on sale that week – and this week, it happened to be “Simply Apple” that was on deep discount.

Anyway, I poured enough of the apple juice in the bowl to cover the chops…

Marinating chops

… and I then flipped the chops around gently in the bowl so that each surface got some exposure to the apple juice. I then covered the bowl and stuck it in the fridge. Total time: about a minute.

As mealtime approached, I started preheating the grill, then I came inside, spread out a piece of aluminum foil, put some baby potatoes, a few teaspoons of minced garlic, and some ice cubes on top.

Potatoes before wrapping

The garlic is for flavor – you can put whatever flavorings you want in there. You might want pepper. You might want salt. You might want chives. Whatever floats your boat.

The ice cubes are essential – in fact, I wish I had added a few more. The ice cubes melt inside the packet and eventually provide a great steaming effect, cooking the potatoes and keeping them moist.

So, I just wrap up the potatoes – and wrap ‘em again:

Wrapped potatoes

This package is ready to be tossed on the grill and cooked. I toss it on immediately, in fact, before the grill is entirely done preheating.

Now, for the broccoli…

Broccoli (and Matthew)

All I have to do is chop the florets off of the stalks, chop up a bit of the stalks as well, and put it all in our vegetable steamer that we received as a wedding gift. Set the timer, walk away, and wait for the ding.

There are a lot of techniques for steaming vegetables without a steamer. The easiest one I’ve found is to take a large pot, pour some water in it, submerge a plate upside down in the water, sit a bowl of vegetables on top of that plate, then cover the entire thing and boil the water for 10 minutes or so (depending on the vegetables).

Broccoli in steamer

That’s it for the prep work. All you have to do now is throw the chops on the grill when it’s done preheating…

On the grill

You’re going to have some leftover apple juice that had raw pork in it. My suggestion is to simply pour it over the pork chops as soon as you put them on the grill, and don’t hesitate to splash a little, either. It’ll all cook off while the grill lid is closed, creating a great apple smoke that adds pure flavor to the chops.

In fact, I poured myself another cup of fresh apple juice and poured this over the chops each time I flipped them, again not worrying about spilling a little. It produced some amazing smelling smoke.

My technique for grilling chops is to wait until the grill is about as hot as you can get it, then throw the chops on one side for about two or three minutes to sear it. Then, I turn the heat down to medium, flip them over, and do most of the rest of the cooking on that side.

This same technique works in a skillet if you don’t have a grill. Just put some vegetable oil in a skillet, turn the heat up very high, and wait until the oil is just starting to smoke. Toss in the chops, let them sear on one side for about three minutes or so, then turn the heat down to medium and flip them.

In both cases, trust a meat thermometer to tell you when you’re done. Pork needs to be cooked to 160F (about 75C).

In any event, my plate looked like this:

Complete meal

The meal was amazingly inexpensive, considering a meal like this at the local barbecue place would easily be $10.

The chop cost $1. I used approximately $0.10 worth of apple juice on this particular chop. The two potatoes cost about $0.15. The broccoli cost about $0.15 as well. Add in the energy costs and this entire plate was prepared for about $1.50. This was a $6 meal for our family of four.

Not only that, it tasted fantastic. There was just the perfect little hint of apple in the chops, the potatoes were tender and moist on the inside, and the broccoli was wonderful.

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  1. Vicky says:

    Man this looks so good! I’m going to print this off and keep it with my recipes to try out some time! Thanks for the tips!

  2. Nice meal Trent! The grill marks look great!

    I would love to hear your thoughts on cheap meat. I’m a pretty firm believe that cheap meat is usually cheap for a reason which is fine as long as you know why the meat you are buying is cheap.

    I feel like most people are pretty uninformed on why a piece of meat can cost the same as broccoli…

  3. AC says:

    I’m really impressed with your portion sizes. Maybe it’s just because I’m a vegetarian and extremely active, but I think I’d have to eat 3-4 times that much at dinner to be full. Granted, the streak would have to be replaced with tofu and pasta or rice. Either way, good on you for eating so healthily!

  4. J. O. says:

    How do you do the prep so fast (5 minutes)?

    It would take me longer than that just to wrestle the chops out of the packaging into a bowl, or to wash the broccoli :)

    You DID wash the broccoli, didn’t you?

  5. Johanna says:

    Do the potatoes actually take on any flavor if you don’t cut them up (into halves or quarters) before you cook them? I don’t think I’ve ever seen new potatoes served whole (although I see from google that plenty of other people have).

    Since I don’t have kids to play with, I would have used some of the time while the stuff was cooking to make a simple sauce for the broccoli – maybe a vinaigrette of sorts.

  6. Johanna says:

    Now, why in the world was my comment sent to moderation? Is vinaigrette offensive fo a general audience?

  7. Steffie says:

    My man puts the vegetables in an aluminum round cake pan with some water, covers it with foil and puts it on the grill too. Why cook in multiple places ?

  8. Ashley says:

    Those look like America’s cuts, not pork chops. Pork chops have a bone and aren’t cut quite that think (although Iowa chops are that thickness); America’s cuts are cut the opposite direction, don’t have a bone, and are about that thickness. Nonetheless, they look decent and you probably got a better deal on them since you weren’t paying for a bone.

  9. Thomas says:

    Tasty! I made pork chops this week, though they weren’t on sale. I’m going to try your receipe with the potatoes.

    One trick I learned while ‘homeless’ and packing light. 2 bowls, one upright and one as a dome, make the perfect steamer in the microwave. For all heating sources, microwaves are the most efficient and cost-effective. Drop 1/4 water in the bowl, some salt and cook 2 minutes or so for crispy veggies.

    I’m hungry. Still at the office. 1/2 hour bike ride home. Not much in the house for dinner. Shopping day is tomorrow. Bummer.

  10. Gretchen says:

    Oh, the wonders of factory farmed meat.

    Question: all of that wasn’t in the ad. Is this common? Did you still buy what you went in there for and just have it another night?
    That would mean a lot of menu reshuffling for me, something I try to avoid.

  11. Wally says:

    Thumbs up the Gretchen. You also could ve put some apple juice in a pot on the stove top and boiled and simmered and had a flavorful reduction to pour over the chops.

  12. Paul says:

    Great tip about the ice cubes. i’ve never tried that before… tailgating sunday, will give it a go

  13. deb says:

    Looks yummy! I love apple with pork, and I have a steamer just like that one.

    PS: Is it just me or is anyone else getting annoying popup ads here all of a sudden? I never used to get them, and I don’t get them anywhere else. Sorry to complain, but it’s been happening so frequently lately.

  14. Becky says:

    You can also steam veggies by throwing them in a tupperware or gladware container, laying the lid loosely on top, adding a bit of water, and microwaving for 3 minutes. This is great for me, as I normally bring veggies home and try to cut them up right away. I can cook them later without having to do anything other than pop the top and add a bit of water.

  15. Amanda says:

    Looks great. However, where’s the article on pet ownership?!

  16. This is totally not on subject, but we have the same Corelle dishes and every time you post about food the pictures of your plates make me feel at home.

    That’s all.

  17. andrea says:

    Re: microwave steaming – if there is a good seal over the veggies no added water is needed; they have enough water internally to steam themselves, and the flavor becomes more intense.

    I do not grill, but I often cook meat dishes like this on the stovetop. However, I use a ziploc-type-bag (any with a good seal) to contain the meat and juice/sauce, as I find I use less that way to achieve the same flavor. Also, when cooking inside, if you add the juice to the pan it reduces to a glaze while the meat cooks, and is delicious!

    I really enjoy reading your recipes and meal ideas here.

  18. brooke says:

    Becky,
    I am not thoroughly researched here, but I have been reading in various places that you should not microwave your food in plastic, try to stick with glass. Anyone else hear that? Something about the chemicals in plastic leaching into the food. Just a heads up and something to investigate. But here’s to steamed veggies!!

  19. Rachel says:

    Trent, I wish my husband cooked. How often do you cook?

  20. Saryn says:

    This looks great! I am adding the pork (4 2 in thick chops picked up on sale and with multiple store and manu coupons for .36 total!) and red potato (from our CSA) to next weeks menu and will add in whatever fresh veggies we get in the CSA this weekend. I can’t wait to try the applejuice method and was thinking of adding a few halved apples to grill at the end…

  21. Cheryl says:

    Trent, thanks for the ice cube tip! When we go on vacation, we cook all our meals in foil over the fire. We each make our own packet, with meat, garlic and potatoes and whatever veggies we’d like and season to our own tastes. We add a little butter, but things can get crispy sometimes. The ice is a great idea, and healthier than butter, and should solve our occassional blacked potato problem…

  22. David Galloway says:

    Trent, I like the quick almost zen-like ‘thrown together’ aspect of this meal. The only change I would have made would have been to add some cloves and cardamom to the marinade.

    This is a great series. Can’t wait for the next one.

  23. Claudia says:

    Food Shmood! I liked the glimpse of the new baby in one of the prep pictures. Adorable!

  24. Bill says:

    The baby potatoes are called fingerlings in the Pacific Northwest and yes they are delicious instead of ice cubes, we use olive oil.

  25. socalgal says:

    I’m with Claudia. That baby is beyond cute!

  26. littlepitcher says:

    Try some fresh thyme in garlic butter on those baby potatoes, and stir-fry a little orange peel in the broccoli, or put it in the steam water.

  27. Samantha says:

    I have never seen the ice cube trick–very interesting, i’ll have to try it sometime. I cook alot of chops, but never have I used apple juice-another tip I’ll try-thanks! Rosemary would also be good on the potatoes.

  28. Jay says:

    Thanks for the ice cube tip! My potatoes were a little dry without them. Great meal-I was inspired to try it!

  29. Candi says:

    Wow finally a meal that I would eat enough of the ingredients to make it worth trying! I am looking forward to giving this one a try and I love the ice tip for the grill packet.

  30. sylrayj says:

    You can use those broccoli stems too. Just peel off the tough skin and cut off the thick dry bottom, and chop the stems into smaller pieces. They are sweet and tender, and once my son was willing to try one, I no longer got to keep them all to myself…

  31. anne says:

    i am doing your potatoes tomorrow night! i am so excited. i have gotten into a bit of a rut w/ the veggies on the grill- we have one of those skillets w/ tons of holes in it so you can do veggies w/out them falling through on the grill. i just toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper and put them on.

    potatoes in a packet of foil w/ ice cubes sounds like a great idea. i kept finding myself putting a tray of fries in the oven anyway, and heating up the kitchen just for those- this is the answer i didn’t even know i was looking for.

    i’ll probably still put in olive oil and salt and pepper w/ the garlic. and a little rosemary.

  32. Jeremy says:

    Don’t forget to factor in the cost of the propane to run your gas grill — it costs me $20 to refill a propane tank, and I get 10-20 grills out of one tank, so that’s an extra buck or two to add in.

    Also, don’t waste those broccoli stalks! If you peel them with a vegetable peeler and slice them on the bias, you’ll get a lot extra, tender, very flavorful broccoli :)

  33. LeslieH says:

    #10 & #11: Check out the link on Snopes about microwaving in plastic. It is safe so long as the container says it is microwave safe.

    From Snopes:

    http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/cookplastic.asp

    From John Hopkins University:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20060515234721/http://www.jhsph.edu/publichealthnews/articles/halden_dioxins.html

    I hope this is helpful. Every day, something new shows up in the news that causes cancer yet the day before it was a miracle cure so we can’t win.

  34. matt says:

    i would have added a squirt or two of honey to the apple juice as well as a little salt. Also, take the porky juice (and honey in my case) mix that is left over and simmer it in a saucepot down to a glaze while you are grilling, then brush the chops with the apple glaze on both sides before removing from grill.

  35. Marguerite says:

    When I marinate pork chops, or just about anything, I find it uses less liquid if instead of a bowl I use a zip-top bag. The goal with a marinade is surface contact with the liquid, and the bag lets you suck the air out and make a tight seal. Just my two cents for next time, though I really like the glaze idea too!

  36. Brittany says:

    $1/chop? That’s fairly expensive for pork, isn’t it? I only buy it when it goes to $1/pound (2-4 chops depending on thickness). And $1.50 per serving is not cheap for at home cooking.

  37. JK says:

    Don’t know where you live Brittany, but I’m looking at my store flyer and making my list for this weekend and the cheapest cut of pork chops are on sale for $1.99/lb.

    The only thing I’d add to this meal is some apple sauce. We always seem to have an old wrinkly or bruised apple kicking around. If I have lots of time I’ll buy a marked down bag of apples and make a big pot of sauce which I freeze in small portions to pull out to go with meals like this. If I only have an apple of two that needs to be dealt with I’ll peel and chop them into a pot with sugar and a few drops of water. When it’s done mashed a bit an add a little cinnamon if you like. By the time the meat is cooked and the brocolli is done you’ll also have warm apple sauce on the side. If you have a burner on the side of your grill do it there so you can watch everything at once.

  38. kristin says:

    I like to marinate my meat in ziplock bags. It takes less to cover the surface of the meat, and you don’t have to clean the bowl after. If I get the chance to plan ahead I’ll even tack care of this step in the morning before work. when I know my meal is planned and mostly prepped I’m way less likely to abort it for something else when I feel lazy after work.

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