28 October 2013

Eats: cornmeal crusted pork chops

I’ve mentioned before (several times, I know) that we’ve had to change our eating habits since moving to St. Louis. In Nashville, our go-to protein was chicken, which I could routinely find for under two dollars a pound. Here, chicken breasts are usually five to six (SIX!) dollars a pound. It drops to $2/pound maybe twice a year.

So I’ve had to adjust. First, I stock up on chicken when it’s $3 or less per pound (Trader Joe’s, of all places, tends to mark it down most frequently). And second, I’ve made friends with pork. For whatever reason that I don’t want to think too much about, pork products in St. Louis are super inexpensive.

Good ol’ $1.79/pound pork steaks!

Now, anytime I see a tasty-looking pork recipe, I save it for later here. Such was the case with these cornmeal-crusted pork chops from Elly. I do find the pork steaks a little difficult to cook on the stovetop, mostly because I haven’t developed the knack for figuring out when the pork is done (though I’m getting better!). Elly fixes this problem by searing the pork on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet, then finishing it in the oven. Bonus: the breading uses ingredients I keep in my pantry. I’m game!

For the breading, I used three-quarters of a cup of cornmeal for three boneless chops (1/3-pound each), along with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, parsley, and red pepper. Did I measure the spices? Of course not.

Stir it together to make the breading! Oh, and get some eggs. I used two but could probably have made do with one.

Transfer the pork into the egg (WITH A FORK because touching raw meat and eggs is grody), then into the cornmeal to coat in breading.

Because I had extra egg and breading mixture, I actually breaded these twice! I loved the thick breading but Mr. P thought it was like an odd cornmeal casing around the pork. So, double-bread if you wish!

Once the chops are breaded, it’s time to cook them – first on the stove, then in the oven. I used a cast-iron skillet to do it all in one pan, but if you don’t have one, you could make do in a regular non-stick skillet and then transferring the chops to an oven-safe baking sheet.

I cooked the chops with a bit of canola oil over medium-high heat (don’t use olive oil, it’ll smoke!). After cooking about two minutes per side, the breading was cooked:

Then I popped the pan in the oven, preheated to 425 degrees. Elly’s recommendation of eight minutes worked well enough – our chops were also less than an inch thick, as suggested.

And that’s it! Super simple, super cheap, super tasty. The cornmeal crust and the searing in oil makes it almost taste fried, but without the extra fat. You could, of course, do this with chicken, if that’s what’s inexpensive in your area! But if you’re looking for a recipe to guide yourself into cooking pork, this is a foolproof way to cook it through without overcooking.

Serve it up with a green vegetable and you’ve got an easy fall dinner, ready to go. Enjoy!

Finally, this week’s meal plan:

Sunday: Date night! Because Mr. P had a coupon! Nothing says “lasting romance” like saving pennies (I am not being sarcastic).

Monday: Red curry with chicken thighs and veggies

Tuesday: Broccoli and cheese over baked potatoes with salad

Wednesday: Headed to a concert! We’ll either have leftovers or stop here on our way to the show.

Thursday: Spaghetti Bolognese with salad

Friday: Stroganoff meatballs with noodles and green peas

Saturday: Chicken & wild rice stew... and perhaps some goodies to carry to a belated Halloween party!

Embrace the fall foods, dear readers. And have a great week!