"Want a kumquat?" Jessica asked me one day at work holding out a plastic container of what appeared to be small, oblong oranges just a little bit larger than a quail egg. Of course I'd heard of kumquats, but I don't recall ever having seen one. Although I love fruit, typically I prefer things like apples, bananas, peaches and berries to most citrus. I accepted her offer, just to be polite. "How do I eat it?" I asked her, rubbing the smooth, firm rind with my thumb. "Just bite into it," she instructed. "Through the peel?" I balked in disbelief. She insisted and so I sunk my teeth in and experienced the most divine combination of sweet and sour. The sides of my toungue tingled and I got a shiver. It was fantastic, kind of like a Sour Patch Kid, but fruit. I tried another and this time it wasn't quite so sour. These little kumquats had me intrigued.
I promptly headed to Epicurious to see what one might do with kumquats. This recipe, published in Bon Appetite in November 2005 caught my eye. Kumquats+jalapenos+pork=Oh hells yeah. The original recipe called for pork loin, but I decided to do thick pork chops instead using a few tricks I learned from Suzanne Goin and her love of thyme and chiles de arbol.
(For the marmalade)
2 cups kumquats, stemmed, quartered, seeded
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4 small shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, seeded, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño chiles, divided
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
(For the pork chops)
4 thick-cut boneless pork chops
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 dried chiles de arbol, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
First season the pork with the thyme, chiles de arbol, and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Next make the marmalade. Using on/off turns, finely chop kumquats in processor (do not puree). Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, apple, and 1 tablespoon jalapeño. Cook until shallots are soft, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Add chopped kumquats, apricots, 3/4 cup water, sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until mixture thickens, about 6 minutes. Transfer marmalade to small bowl. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons jalapeño.
Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 15 mintues before cooking to allow the meat to come to room temperature. Heat a grill pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Season the pork chops with salt and place in the grill pan. Turn heat down to medium-high and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the meat over, reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook for 4 to 5 more minutes.
To serve you can slice the pork thinly and top with the warm marmalade. I served mine with a couscous that I flavored with shallot, parsely and tangerine zest and juice as well as some green beans that I blanched and then sauted with garlic, olive oil, lemon zest and juice.
Okay, so my little idea that I stole from Suzanne Goin for seasoning the pork worked out kind of really well. The thyme and the chile de arbol added a lot of flavor and tied the meat in nicely with the marmalade which is sweet, tangy and just a little spicy. The kumquats have a flavor very much like an orange but with a tart edge which makes it a great companion to the granny smith apple. The kumquat peel, the apple and the jalepeno stay crisp, despite being cooked and the sugar melts down into the water and coats everything with a bright, beautiful, glossy sheen. Combined with the couscous and the lemon green beans, this was a most satisfying meal.
Makes two cups of marmalade