Food & Drink

Hawkeye baseball coach shows off his grilling techniques with this Iowa chop recipe

Robin Lund, pitching coach for the University of Iowa baseball team, places Iowa pork chops on the grill on at the Lund
Robin Lund, pitching coach for the University of Iowa baseball team, places Iowa pork chops on the grill on at the Lund family’s home in Tiffin on Monday, August 17, 2020. (Cliff Jette/Freelance for The Gazette)
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For Robin Lund, the pitching coach for the University of Iowa baseball team, a perfect day might be a win by his team followed by an equally satisfying home-cooked meal.

“I guess that I’ve always been an adventurous eater, and I really appreciate great food,” he said.

Lund started cooking in college out of necessity. After he and his wife, Susie, were married, he bought some cookbooks and began cooking as a hobby as they raised their three kids, now 16, 18 and 21.

A home-cooked breakfast is a given at the Lunds’ Tiffin home.

“Everyone gets homemade hot breakfast since I’m almost always the first one awake,” Lund said. “Some of the best conversations I’ve had with my kids have been during the work week when one of them had to be up extra early for a workout or band practice.

“I have fond memories of sitting across from one another at the table when the house is quiet. I know they’ve always appreciated the effort to make something special just for them in the early hours.”

As the seasons change throughout the year, so do Lund’s signature dishes. In the summer, he uses the grill or smoker for meals like glazed Iowa pork chops with roasted vegetables paired with mango and cucumber salad.

“When the weather starts getting cooler, we will transition to homemade soup and lots of braises in the oven,” he said, adding that he also likes to prepare charcuterie. “I have a special fridge for dry-aging things, like salami, capicola or soppressata.”

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“I really got into charcuterie a few years ago,” Lund said. “I have a brining box that I use to cure pork belly for bacon or for brining chickens and turkeys for smoking.”

Lund even makes homemade sausages and brats with a grinder and stuffer.

“Our kids would probably say that burger night is their favorite. We go really hard. We make homemade hamburger buns, grind the beef and use homemade bacon and pickles,” he said.

Cooking tips?

“I would say to use brines, especially with leaner cuts of meat like chicken or pork loins. I would also encourage everyone who uses the grill or smoker to invest in a good meat thermometer.”

A native of Canada, Lund played college baseball in the Pacific Northwest. With a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in exercise science, Lund completed his Ph.D. in exercise science at the University of Idaho, coaching baseball at several stops along the way. He was an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Northern Iowa for a number of years before coming to the University of Iowa as a pitching coach last year.

“I can’t express how much I love being a college baseball coach,” he said. “I’m definitely much busier than I was when I was a professor so I really only have time for one hobby, which is cooking.”

Even with the demands of being a college coach, Lund embraces being in the kitchen. “If I’m not recruiting or playing, I do all of the meal planning, shopping and cooking.”

He even cooks for his players once a season.

“We have a bit of a competition through the fall, and the top five guys get a steak and everyone else gets pulled pork,” he said.

His zeal for cooking became even more meaningful when it forged a stronger bond with his parents when his mother became ill and passed away a few years ago.

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“My mom did most of the cooking when I was young, and I loved her and her food so much,” Lund said. “While she was sick, my dad took over all of the cooking duties. I’ve been amazed with how he has used cooking as therapy to help him move forward after we lost my mom.

We’ve been sharing and remaking some of the recipes that she used to make, and it has really brought my Dad and I closer together,” Lund said.

He also views cooking as a bridge to understanding other cultures.

“I wish we had the time to travel more as a family, but you can at least partially experience different cultures by trying your best to replicate some of their dishes,” he said.

“I really enjoy digging into the food culture of a particular region. I will spend time researching and reading about it and look for people who have experience cooking or eating that style of food. I’ve gone down some rabbit holes learning how to make authentic gumbo.”

And Lund isn’t shy about sharing the fruits of his labor on social media.

His Twitter account, @Lunderton, has more than 2,000 followers who enjoy seeing him post pictures of his latest cuisine — a nice break from the sometimes combative nature of sports tweets.

“Baseball people love to argue and fight on Twitter,” he said, adding that people say things online they would never say face-to-face.

“Nobody has ever tried to argue with me about the proper way to braise a short rib or the best way to cure pork belly for bacon,” he said. “I will tweet some baseball stuff once in a while, but there’s definitely a lot of bacon pictures on my timeline.”

Maple-Glazed Iowa Chops

Ingredients:

4 Iowa pork chops

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons stone ground mustard

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 clove minced garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat grill to medium-high heat and grease the grill grate.

Whisk together maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and set aside.

Rub the chops with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

Place chops on the hot grill grate for approximately 9 minutes with lid closed. Flip and grill chops 9 more minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Take chops off grill and let them sit for at least 10 minutes under tinfoil.

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Turn on the broiler to the highest setting in the oven. Brush maple glaze onto chops and place under the broiler until bubbly.

Mango and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

2 ripe mangos, peeled and chopped

1 English cucumber, chopped

1/2 cup sliced red onion

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Juice of one lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice.

Combine mangos, cucumber, red onion and cilantro in a bowl.

Dress the salad and mix it gently.

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