Breaded pork chops (and a lesson in how to bread meat quickly, effortlessly, and painlessly)...
This recipe has a dual purpose: 1) to provide a lesson about how to overcome any hesitance to bread meat because it looks too difficult and 2) to do so by using bone-in pork loin chops.
Many cooks don't like to bread meat like pork chops, chicken, and veal because it seems like it can be such a mess. And breading meat can be such a mess! The trick is to know how to do it.
So, the lesson first. Then, a discussion about the bone-in pork loin chops.
The key to breading meat is
to think "process." Good breading is a process consisting of three
elements: 1) a seasoned flour base; 2) an egg wash; and, 3) a very good
breading mixture. These three elements, when combined in an
effortless process, result in breaded meats that have a wonderful flavor.
The three elements of a good breading:
(from right to left) the seasoned
flour mixture; the egg wash; and, the breading mixture.
The process of breading meat consists of four work stations.
First: the seasoned flour base. Emeril Lagasse is correct: flour doesn't come seasoned. A good seasoned flour base consists of all-purpose flour, salt, and pepper. The Motley Monk uses regular ground black pepper in the contained found in any grocery store. For some reason, this adds better flavor than freshly ground pepper. Maybe the flavor reminds The Motley Monk of his Mom's breaded pork chops? Place the ingredients into a rectangular container.
Second: the egg wash. This step in the breading process may be the most important because the right kind of egg wash seems crucial to the enterprise of producing crispy breading that doesn't separate itself from or fall off of the meat. The Motley Monk has tried all sorts of mixtures and has found the best to be two eggs whisked with one-eighth cup of milk in a medium bowl. This produces a sticky and somewhat thick wash that adheres to the seasoned flour mixture very well.
Third: the very good breading mixture. Again, The Motley Monk has tried all sorts of mixtures and has settled on this one.
For more ambitious cooks, the base of this mixture is fresh bread crumbs that have been made in a food processor. Simply place some good bread in the food processor and process. Don't over process: the bread crumbs should be crumbs not flour. The Motley Monk uses the crust to add texture to the breading, unless the crust is too tough to eat...then it's no good for breading. For less ambitious cooks, store-bought toasted bread crumbs work just as well. The difference between the two is neither flavor nor crispness when cooked. No, the difference is texture: the fresh bread crumbs are more puffy and light. For those who are ambitious but not so much so and want puffy and light breading, panko bread crumbs work equally as well. That's what the Neely's use in practically all of their breading recipes.
Make the breading mixture by placing the bread crumbs in medium sized bowl. Add: salt, fresh ground pepper; paprika; fresh (or dried) parsley; and, freshly grated parmesan cheese. What is great about the addition of the parmesan cheese is the flavor it adds and the way the cheese binds the ingredients together better and also makes them adhere better to the egg wash. Then, fetch a round pan or container (a pie pan works well) and put some of the breading mixture in it. Place the bowl of breading mixture behind it.
A hint: Save
any leftover breading mixture by pouring it into a Ziploc plastic bag and
placing the bag into the freezer. Keep adding to the mixture until enough
is "banked" to use it for a smaller dinner (for two or three) or for breading
vegetables (like zucchini) to accompany another meal.
cooling grate placed atop a cookie sheet.
A retrospective view of the process:
(front) the finished product;
the breading mixture; the egg wash; and, the seasoned flour mixture.
With the elements of the process in place, it's time to bread the meat quickly, effortlessly, and painlessly.
Line up the four "workstations" in sequential order. Then rinse and towel dry the meat. The Motley Monk wraps the meat in paper towels and leaves it in the paper toweling until it's time to bread the meat. This keeps the meat as dry as possible.
Now that the four workstations and meat are ready, keep this rule in mind: "one hand for wet, one hand for dry." It is essential that cooks not use both hands for both types of ingredients. The failure to observe this rule, breading meat is not quick, effortless, and pain-free because the hands get all gummed up with breading. Washing the hands is difficult (a hand brush makes the chore easier). In The Motley Monk's opinion, this is why many cooks shy away from breading meat. So, with that rule in mind:
1. Lay a piece
of meat in the flour base. Using the fingers of the "dry" hand, dust the
top of the meat with the flour base. Press the meat a bit so that the
flour adheres. Turn the meat over and repeat. Pick up the meat and
shake off the excess flour base. Place the meat in the
egg wash and repeat this first step with a second piece of meat by placing it in the
flour base. Two pieces of meat are now being processed in two workstations.
2. Using the
fingers of the "wet" hand, turn the meat in the egg wash over. Make sure
that all of the flour is covered with egg wash. Swirling the bowl a bit
helps in this regard.
3. Using the fingers of the "wet" hand again, remove the meat from the egg wash. Hold it above the egg wash so the excess drips off of the meat. Place meat into the breading mixture. Using the fingers of the "dry" hand, move the meat from the seasoned flour and place it into the egg wash. Using the fingers of the "wet" hand, remove the paper toweling from the meat and place into the seasoned flour. If necessary, use the paper toweling to clean any breading from the "wet" hand. At this point, three pieces of meat are being processed in three workstations.
Returning to the meat in the breading mixture, remove some of the breading mixture from the bowl and sprinkle it on the meat to cover it completely. Press down gently on the meat with the "dry" hand and then turn the meat over. Sprinkle more breading mixture on top of the meat. Press the excess breading mixture around the meat onto its sides. Press down gently on the meat again to make sure that it is completely coated. Using the "dry" hand, lift meat from breading mixture, shake off excess, and place meat onto the cooling grate.
4. Repeat #3 until all
pieces of meat are processed. Four pieces of meat are being simultaneously
processed in four workstations.
Once all of the breaded meat has been processed and is on the cooling grate, place the cookie sheet into the refrigerator. This helps the ingredients to "bind together" and adhere to the meat. An hour or so should be enough. By the way, this is the "religion" of cooking, to "re-bind" in Latin is "re-ligio."
It's then time to cook the breaded meat. Unless you are simultaneously roasting potatoes in the oven at 375° (see below), preheat the oven to 200°. The Motley Monk prefers using a 50-50 butter/olive oil mixture. Make sure the oil is hot, but not burning, before placing the meat into the skillet. Once the meat is placed in the skillet, press down gently on the meat with a spatula so that it cooks evenly across the meat. Cook until well-browned on each side.
One rule: Do not succumb to
the temptation to look at the bottom of the meat to see if it is done.
Instead, gently shake the skillet back and forth. Nature teaches the
lesson: the meat is done when it loosens through the cooking process not
by forcing it loose with a spatula.
When the meat is cooked, place on a cookie sheet and place the cookie sheet into the oven. The meat will continue to cook will be kept warm.
The day The Motley Monk made this recipe, he also made some garlic roasted potatoes. Simple...crusty outside yet creamy inside...and delicious.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Peel the Idaho baking potatoes. Cut each potato in half and each half into three pieces so that all pieces are roughly identical in size. Place the pieces of potato into a large mixing bowl. Add salt, fresh ground pepper, finely minced garlic, and olive oil. Stir and mix together so that potatoes are covered with the salt, pepper, and garlic.
Spray a cookie sheet with
Pam spray. Pour the potatoes and liquids onto the cookie sheet. Turn
the potatoes so that they are flat side down. Place the cookie sheet into
Doesn't look too tasty, does it?
potatoes salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil before
being placed into the oven for roasting.
Roast potatoes for 30 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the potatoes (if necessary, loosen them first with the spatula) and return to the oven for another 30 minutes of roasting. The potatoes are finished roasting when they are golden on all sides, about one hour.
If making the breaded meat, The Motley Monk tries to finish the meat when the potatoes are done roasting. Turn the oven off, put the meat into the oven, and let everything set in the warm oven for about 10-15 minutes.
Sprinkle some parsley on the meat (or, below, The Motley Monk used lemon
verbena for a lemony, "piccata" flavor) and accompany with some of the roasted
potatoes. Dinner is served!
Now for some discussion about the meat.
In this recipe, The Motley Monk used "bone-in" pork loin chops that was purchased at the local grocery store. The six chops cost $6.15, each one weighing about 10 ounces. It's a "cheap" piece of meat but it has some fat that adds moisture and flavor and, when breaded, keeps all of that flavor on the inside. Regular pork chops or pork loin/tenderloin cost more and, in the estimation of The Motley Monk, are nowhere as full of moisture and flavor as are the less-expensive, bone-in pork loin chops.
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