Curious Cook: A meat for thee

Posted 1/13/21

“I like pork chops.”

For my particularly lowkey husband, that statement is the equivalent of a fireworks and marching band declaration.

I grew up eating chops made with the store-bought …

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Curious Cook: A meat for thee

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Posted

“I like pork chops.”

For my particularly lowkey husband, that statement is the equivalent of a fireworks and marching band declaration.

I grew up eating chops made with the store-bought crumb mixture. But one day, I had just tossed an empty bag of pretzels and realized it wasn’t empty. There was a handful of pretzel shards in that bag.

Around the same time, I began to wonder what’s really in that box of pork breader. Even studying the ingredients I couldn’t discern the components of it.

So, I tried to reverse engineer it.

The goal of these products is to mimic fried pork chops. I’d never actually fried them or even eaten them. But I have both cooked and eaten plenty of other fried meat.

The two coating choices one has when frying most proteins are flour-based (think fried chicken and country fried steak) or crumb-based (fried fish or schnitzel). Obviously, the pre-made breader was supposed to resemble the crumb type.

So, I started collecting crumbs.

I keep two zip-top bags in my freezer; one for the last few, stale slices of bread, and one for crackers, chips, pretzels, even plantain chips.

And when I need crumbs of any kind, they’re right there in the chill chest waiting for me. I haven’t bought breader or bread crumbs in literally decades.

As far as the flavoring for your breader, that’s really up to you. Go German with caraway and juniper. Try Herbs du Provence for some French flair. Or take it south of the border with some chole lime seasoning and fresh cilantro. Or Chinese five-spice and Thai basil. You could go Moroccan with mace, allspice, and oregano.

Have some fun and take some chances with flavor, Gentle Reader.

This week I decided that instead of sharing one dish with you, I would give you an entire dinner. The pork chops and the potatoes make frequent appearances on our dinner table, but the leeks are a new creation.

But leeks have a dirty little secret.

And, it’s dirt.

Leeks are grown in very sandy soil, and like the onions they are related to, leeks are a layered veg. But because the layers are loose and exclusively vertical, as it grows, a measure of sand gets deposited between the leaves. Sandy, when eaten becomes the most unwelcome of edible texture: gritty.

Unless you enjoy the feeling of munching on broken glass and tiny eggshells, you need to be scrupulous about cleaning them. It’s not hard, though, and I’ve told you how in the recipe.

So, go stick a couple of zip-tops in your freezer and start your carb collections today. And with all that money you’ll save, go shoe shopping!

Thanks for your time.

Contact me at dm@bullcity.mom.

Shaking, Baking, Pork Chops

4 1-inch pork chops, boneless or bone-in

2 cups flour with 1 tablespoon flour and 2 teaspoons pepper placed in a zip-top bag

2 cups fat-free buttermilk poured into a second shallow dish

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Breader (recipe follows)

Breader

3 cups crumbs of any sort

2 teaspoons spice (I usually use a Caribbean adobo seasoning)

2 teaspoons dried herbs (usually thyme, and rosemary if I have it on hand)

1/2 cup grated, dry cheese, like Manchego or Parmesan

1/4 cup fat

Salt and pepper to taste

If you’re using any type of bread products as crumbs, toast them for 20 minutes in a 250° oven before grinding.

Place all ingredients into food processor and grind until they’re uniformish in size. Taste a pinch and re-season, if necessary.

Pour into a shallow dish.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Put oil into baking dish and set aside.

Right before cooking, coat chops: one at a time, place chops into bag of flour and shake until well coated. Then coat with buttermilk. Finally, dredge in crumb mixture, pressing crumbs all over so there is a nice heavy coat of breader all over chops.

Put chops into baking dish, being sure there is a little space (1/2-inch at least) between each chop.

Bake for 15-25 minutes or until internal temperature is 145-150°. Let rest a few minutes before serving.

Poached New Potatoes

1 1/2pounds new potatoes or small creamers

3/4 cup chicken stock

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons fresh herbs (chives or Italian parsley work well here)

Place everything except fresh herbs into a large, heavy pot with a lid. Cover and cook on medium until the potatoes are fork-tender (15-20 minutes).

Uncover and cook until the liquid has cooked out. Gently stir in the fresh herbs.

Serve.

Creamed Leeks

5 large leeks

2 tablespoons butter

1 lb. bagged baby spinach

1/4 cup grated dry cheese, like Manchego or Parmesan

1/3 cup 2% milk

1/3 cup heavy cream

15-20 gratings of fresh nutmeg (a large pinch)

Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the leeks:

Cut 1/4-inch off root end as well as dark green part and discard.

Slice in half, lengthwise, then slice into ¼ inch half-moons. Place into a large bowl of cold water and agitate until the pieces are all separate. Let stand for 15-20 minutes. The sand and debris will fall to the bottom of the bowl.

Carefully scoop out leeks and put into a colander to drain. Blot with a kitchen towel or paper towels to remove more of the moisture.

Prepare the spinach:

Put all the spinach in a very large, microwave-safe bowl and cover with a paper towel. Microwave for three minutes and 15 seconds until it has totally wilted. Once cooled, put it into a colander and let it drain. When ready to use, take it by the handful and squeeze your little heart out to get as much water from the spinach that you can. When you think you’ve gotten it all, squeeze it some more. Then put it on a cutting board and chop it.

Directions:

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet. Add leeks along with the salt and pepper. Cook on medium-low until the leeks are softened and all the water has cooked in.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients and cook until the veg are tender and a thick, creamy sauce has formed.

Check for seasoning and re-season, if necessary.

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