Sunday, September 21, 2008

Like Shake & Bake, But Better

Those Shake & Bake people made a killing - about 15 cents worth of breadcrumbs and spices, and they boxed it up and made a fortune selling it for $2 a pop. Not too long ago I heard about a meeting where an investor simply refused to believe that there would ever be a market for frozen peanut butter & jelly sandwiches "because how HARD is it to make a PB&J? It takes 10 times as long for it to thaw as to make one fresh." Marketing experts quickly descended upon him and gave him an education on the vast disconnect many people have with their food.

Everyone has their priorities for their time, and Sweetie and I prioritize eating home-cooked food together. Granted during this busy season we often have to move papers off the table because we don't have time to cook AND clean, but so be it. In a few months we'll be able to sit down to a good dinner at a spotless table.

Last week my beloved flipped through my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and found this fast, tasty recipe. People Who Cook A Lot will know about brining pork chops (soaking them in a salt water solution to make them juicier), but it's a pain and we're not dealing with that here. This recipe honestly came together in about 15 minutes.

This recipe is for 4 but can be easily halved or doubled. Lining the baking sheet with aluminum foil allows for easy cleanup; if you've done the math and determined that it is more environmentally friendly to do the extra washing rather than use disposable foil, have at it and leave the baking dish unlined.

Oven-Fried Pork Chops
Better Homes & Gardens cookbook

4 pork loin chops, cut 3/4 inch thick
2 TBSP melted butter OR cooking spray
1 beaten egg
2 TBSP millk (skim, whole, 2%, whatever - it doesn't matter)
1 cup stuffing mix or corn bread stuffing mixed, crushed (or make your own from regular bread - details below)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Tear off a paper towel or two to have handy; when you're handling raw pork and raw egg, you'll want an easy way to wipe your hands if you need to grab the phone.

2. Line baking dish with aluminum foil; either spray foil with cooking spray OR pour melted butter over bottom of pan and swirl the pan to coat.

3. In a small dish combine one beaten egg, the milk, and some black pepper (2 or three shakes from a pepper shaker, 2 or 3 twists from a pepper grinder).

4. Place breadcrumbs on a plate.

Personally, I like to have the counter set up in production-line order and move left to right - pile of pork chops on the far left, egg/milk mixture next, then breadcrumbs, then baking dish.

5. Trim the fat from each pork chop. A little fat is fine, this is nothing to bring a magnifying glass to. Basically, as the fat melts in the hot oven it excretes grease, and we don't want a lot of grease messing up the breading.

6. Pick up a pork chop, dip it in the egg mixture and let some of the egg run off. Now dip one flat side of the chop in the breadcrumbs, then dip the other flat side in the bread crumbs. Place the chop on the baking sheet and move on to the next chop.

7. Bake the pork chops at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Pull the sheet out of the oven, turn each chop over, and bake 10 minutes more.


If you're making your own breadcrumbs - toast 3 pieces of bread. Tear each slice into smaller pieces. Put those smaller pieces in either a blender or a mini food processor, put the lid on, and process until the crumbs are very small. You can also add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder and/or oregano to make Italian breadcrumbs.

I only have bone-in chops. Can I use those?

Can I freeze the leftovers?
Not really. Unless you're flash-freezing commercially (e.g. boxed breaded fish filets), freezing a breaded entree isn't going to work all that well.

How do I reheat these? Just pop them in the microwave?
You can, and the chop will get hot, but the breading will get soggy. If you have the time turn your oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees and reheat for about 15 minutes.

[If you're really curious... the steam created in the microwave stays in the microwave and the breading absorbs that moisture and gets soggy. The oven is a drier environment, so the coating crisps.]

How can I add a little zip to these?
a) Add a little hot sauce (like Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot) to the egg mixture. And I do mean a little hot sauce!

b) Add a little cayenne pepper to the breadcrumbs.

c) When baking the pork chops throw some sliced onion on the baking sheet and spritz them with spray. They will caramelize nicely in the oven as the chops bake.

I halved the recipe, but I can't really halve an egg. What do I do with the extra?
An egg is literally about 15 cents. If you absolutely can't bear to waste part of it, make that decision before you touch raw meat to the egg.

Heat up a small skillet. Beat the one egg without any hot sauce, milk, etc. and pour half the beaten egg into the skillet and make a little scrambled egg. To the remaining beaten egg add 1 tablespoon of milk and proceed with the recipe.

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