I think I've mastered pan-seared pork chops (recent effort below). I use unconventional spices (combinations of galangal, Spanish smoked paprika, coriander, oregano, and Tellicherry black pepper). And I've learned to yield juicy results without risking trichinosis!
Still, something's missing. I'm thinking of adding a sweet nuance, perhaps nodding toward Vietnam. I don't want to go all-out with a sugar or brown sugar glaze, flaunting sweet/salty. I'm not trying to make Vietnamese bbq, and I don't want "sweet" to be in the first five adjectives. I also don't want to marinate. That would change my workflow, and I like it as-is.
Perhaps I could try a very light sprinkle of a few grains of sugar or brown sugar on each side just before flipping. Vietnamese, after all, get their results with an admirably simple application of sugar. But that might be worst of both worlds - a vaguely distracting "other flavor", hard to pin down. If it caramelizes at the surface - i.e. the first part that hits the tongue - it will dominate in meekness, which just won't work. [If that's not clear for you, imagine adding the tiniest possible pinch of cumin to your scrambled eggs. It won't add je ne sais quoi, it will just muck things up, compelling the palate to fish around deciphering the vague familiarity]
I can't cook until I have an image in my head to shoot for. And so far it's still too nebulous. "A bit of sweetness" is an intellectual notion without real-world heft. I need to visualize the result, and the pathway to that result. Any ideas?
No, I don't want to do it with sauce.
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