I recently had the pleasure of meeting Fred Noe, the seventh-generation master distiller who literally grew up at the Jim Beam distillery in the middle of Kentucky. We met over a tasting of country ham and bourbon during which I discovered some new hams and whiskeys to add to my growing list of favourite things to eat and drink. Not surprisingly, I also found out that he and I share a love of grilling.
Many bourbon lovers know Booker’s, but what they might not know is that the bourbon is named after its creator, Booker Noe, Jim Beam’s sixth-generation distiller and Fred Noe’s father.
According to his son, Booker’s bourbon was quite literally “his baby,” and he made everyone promise not to mess with it once he retired. It is uncut and unfiltered, and a high 127.9 proof, which means you might want to drink it with a splash of water or an ice cube to enjoy all the nuances of the flavours.
It also means that the high-proof, uncut spirit is ideal for flambe. Booker was famous for his “BourbonQ” take on barbecue. In fact, he still is; his son keeps the spirit alive by making it often. His signature dish has been made world over. It is a grilled and flambeed bone-in porterhouse (or T-bone) pork chop. With Fred Noe’s permission, I am calling it “Booker’s pork chop flambe.”
And it’s not just for effect. Noe assured me that the bourbon flambe made a difference in the flavour of the pork chop, and he was right. Plus, it really is a dramatic and fun presentation.
I followed his recipe and purchased two 1-inch-thick bone-in porterhouse pork chops. Each had a beautiful nugget of tenderloin on one side of the bone and a thick “steak” on the other. And they each weighed exactly 1 pound.
Riffing slightly from his direction, I brushed the pork steaks with olive oil and seasoned them liberally with my own version of a well-seasoned salt blend. I heated my grill and grilled both sides of the chops over direct heat to mark them. After a couple of minutes, I moved them to a gentler indirect heat. After 30 minutes, the chops were cooked through but still juicy and sported beautiful grill marks.
Then I placed them on a platter, drizzled them with Booker’s bourbon and lit them on fire! The bourbon gravy that is left after the flames burn out flavours every bite of the pork chop. This is my new go-to pork party trick!
BOOKER’S PORK CHOP FLAMBE
This recipe is easily doubled or tripled to feed a crowd. Booker’s bourbon works great for this recipe. You can substitute another bourbon, but make sure it has a similar alcohol volume.
Start to finish: 45 minutes
For the seasoning salt:2 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
For the chops:2 bone-in porterhouse pork chops, 1 pound each
2 tablespoons high-proof bourbon, such Booker’s
Prepare a grill for medium heat, direct and indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the hot coals to one side of the grill. For a gas grill, this means turning off one or more burners to create a cooler side.
To prepare the seasoning salt, in a small bowl combine the garlic, onion powder, paprika and salt. Set aside.
Use paper towels to pat dry the pork chops. Brush them all over with olive oil, then season liberally with the seasoning salt mixture. Place the chops over the hot side of the grill and sear for 2 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to the cooler side and cook, covered, for about 25 minutes, or until the chops reach 145 F at the centre (with a thermometer inserted horizontally into the centre of the chop from the side).
Transfer the chops to a flame-proof platter. Drizzle the bourbon over the chops, then light with a match. Let the flames burn out and let the chops rest for 5 minutes. Serve with some of the flambe juices.
Nutrition information per serving: 270 calories; 110 calories from fat (41 per cent of total calories); 13 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 90 mg cholesterol; 1530 mg sodium; 3 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 29 g protein.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”