Experiments in Cooking: Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

I’m a huge fan of talent-based reality tv shows, such as Top Chef and Project Runway. While watching, I often roll my eyes and shout at the screen things such as, “are you kidding me?! Even I could do better!” Yeah, in the imaginary universe in my mind where I have mad cooking and sewing skills.

In the real world, my sewing abilities are next to nil. I can sew a button on a shirt and that’s about it.

My cooking skills, however, are pretty decent and I think I have a pretty good sense of taste. I can follow a recipe but ask me to invent/create a new dish and I’d be at a total loss. Even with my meager skills, though, I do love to cook. Thus, my love of cookbooks and cooking shows. Unfortunately, I don’t have cable so I don’t get Food Network but I watch the PBS cooking shows religiously. Lidia, Ming, Rick, Jacques, Julia, etc. …you name ’em, I follow ’em.

Which brings me to my official first post after a SUPER long hiatus from blogging. The Crunchy Baked Pork Chop. I was watching America’s Test Kitchen one weekend and happened to catch the episode which included said meat dish. It looked so crunchy, and juicy and mouthwatering-ly delicious on tv, I just had to make it. You don’t understand the compulsion I get when I see/read a tasty recipe on tv or in a magazine. It’s as if I have no free will. I MUST make it. And so I did.

Here are the fruits (meats?) of my labor (purty, ain’t it?):

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

If you’re thinking the pork looks a bit pink, not to worry; it’s definitely cooked through. The ATK episode explained that that’s a side effect of the brining process.

So how were they, you ask? Well…definitely crunchy when they came out of the oven, and very moist. The moistness was undoubtedly from the brining. I brine everything — poultry and meat — before baking or roasting and, in my opinion, that’s the only way to go if you want flavorful, juicy, cooked animal goodness.

The moisture from the mustard/egg batter, however, made the crunchy coating lose its crunchiness pretty quickly. I suspect that’s because I used generic supermarket white sandwich bread for my breadcrumbs, rather than the hearty, “good quality” white bread as the ATK tv show instructed. As such, halfway through my pork chop, the coating, while still crunchy on the outermost surface, was started to feel a little gluey in texture.

That negative point aside (which I attribute to my own cheapness in not splurging on better quality bread), my major complaint is that the pork chop tasted too heavily of mustard. I like a bit of mustard on my hot dogs, but I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan of mustard. So if I were to do this recipe again, I would definitely decrease the amount of mustard in the egg mixture. I could barely taste the pork and other seasonings. Also the batter process didn’t seem to solve the problem of the crust peeling away from the pork. Cutting into the meat, the crust still fell away from the pork. But, again, maybe that was because of the inferior bread I used.

This is the recipe in case you’d like to try it yourself:

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops
Serves 4

Table salt
4 center-cut boneless pork chops , 6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread , torn into 1-inch pieces
1 small minced shallot (about 2 tablespoons)
3 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour plus 6 tablespoons
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Lemon wedges

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 1 quart water in medium container or gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. Submerge chops, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Rinse chops under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

2. Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer crumbs to rimmed baking sheet and add shallot, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss until crumbs are evenly coated with oil. Bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. (Do not turn off oven.) Cool to room temperature. Toss crumbs with Parmesan, thyme, and parsley.

3. Place 1/4 cup flour in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk egg whites and mustard until combined; add remaining 6 tablespoons flour and whisk until almost smooth, with pea-sized lumps remaining.

4. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Season chops with pepper. Dredge 1 pork chop in flour; shake off excess. Using tongs, coat with egg mixture; let excess drip off. Coat all sides of chop with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to chop. Transfer breaded chop to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 chops.

5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 150 degrees, 17 to 25 minutes. Let rest on rack 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.