Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Last Night's Dinner #73: Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

Here's a great recipe for those of you who want to practice the art of prepping. There's a good amount of prepping and steps, but definitely worth it!

I got this recipe from my favorite Cooking magazine Cook's Illustrated. It's not too different from Karen's No-Fry Fried Chicken recipe. Definitely a hit, super crunchy and full of flavor.

You'll need:
4 boneless center-cut chops (3/4" to 1" thick)
5 slices of hearty white bread - I recommend Pepperidge Farm
1 shallot, minced (2 if you're making potatoes and French beans)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 garlic clove thinly sliced if you're making French beans
2 tbs vegetable oil (3 tbs if you're making potatoes and French beans)
ground black pepper
2 tbs grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves (1 tsp if you're making potatoes)
2 tbs minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tbs Dijon mustard
Lemon wedges

Optional sides:
4 to 5 baby potatoes
handful of French beans

Step 1 (before you do anything)
Brine chops for 30 minutes in a ziplock bag or in a non-reactive container. Mix 1 quart of water with 1/4 cup of table salt and allow chops to sit in the mixture for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rinse chops in cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Season with ground pepper. Make sure you don't go over 30 minutes, you don't want the chops to become too salty.

Don't skip this step. According to Cook's Illustrated, the center-cut is quite lean and tends to by very dry and chewy when cooked to medium. The salt in the brine breaks down the muscle proteins, allowing them to retain more moisture during the cooking process. So no skipping!

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Adjust oven rack to middle position.

Step 2. Gather your supplies & Prep
Gather a baking rack, 2 baking sheets, 2 large plates (deep ones are best) to be used for the coating process and a pie pan or something similar to hold the batter. Tongs and a whisk would also be helpful to have around.

- Mince (smallest possible cut but not into a paste) shallot(s) and 3 garlic cloves. If making potatoes and green beans, set aside half of the minced shallots and thinly slice (the long way) 1 clove of garlic.
- Grate Parmesan cheese
- Pluck and mince thyme and parsley leaves. Set aside 1/2 teaspoon of the thyme and a pinch of the parsley for the potatoes.
- Separate egg whites and place in pie pan. Add the 3 tbs of Dijon mustard. Set aside. You'll finish the batter later.
- Cut lemon into wedges
- Take 1/4 cup of flour and place into one a large plate.
- Tear the bread slices into 1" pieces then coarsely grind in a food processor (approx 8 pulses). You should have a bout 3 1/2 cups of crumbs.
- cut potatoes into wedges, if making
- trim ends of green beans, if making

Transfer crumbs into a rimmed baking sheet. Add in shallots, garlic, 2 tbs of oil, 1/4 tsp salt and pepper or more depending on your taste buds. Toss mixture and bake until deep golden brown (about 15-20 mins). Make sure you toss the crumbs around every 5 minutes or so, so they tan up evenly. Remove from oven but keep the oven on. Cool to room temperature then add cheese, parsley and thyme.

Whisk egg whites and mustard together then add in 6 tbs of flour. Whisk until smooth, with small clumps remaining.

At this point, you want to increase your oven temp to about 425 degrees. I forgot to do this and had to pump it up towards the very end. If you forget, don't panick - it still came out ok.

Assemble & Bake:
Set yourself up so that you have the plate of flour, batter, coating and a rack sitting on a baking sheet are all ready.

One chop at a time, dredge in flour; shake of excess. Using tongs, coat with egg batter; let excess drip off. Coat all sides with bread crumb mixture. Press lightly so that a thick layer of crumbs stickes to the chops. Transfer chops to wire rack.

Bake for about 17-25 minutes. I like to turn the chops half-way through so both sides are evenly browned. Allow chops to rest on the rack for 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges. If you have a thermometer, the center of the chops should register 150 F degrees.

Green Beans:
Boil water and blanch beans for a minute or so. Blanch - submerge veggies in boiling water for a minute or so then quickly strain and submerge in ice-water. My cold tap water is currently freezing so I didn't need the whole ice-water bit. Dry beans with paper towel. Heat up some olive oil (2 tsp) add thinly sliced garlic and beans and stir-fry for 5 mins.

You can bake the potatoes at 350 while you're prepping for the chops. Toss wedges with oil, thyme, parsley, shallots and garlic.

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