Thursday, April 3, 2008

Keeping It Old School

There are some classic dishes that I did not eat as a child. When you're a first generation kid like I was, sometimes you're not exposed to what many Americans would consider traditional meals. For example, as much as I love meatloaf now, I encountered it once as a child and ran screaming in the other direction. I'm fairly confident that to this day it's the one food I've ever shied away from, especially without trying it first. And I'm sad to say that having tried my aunt's meatloaf since then, I feel really bad about secretly feeding it to the dog. On the other hand, a few typical and not so interesting American dishes somehow managed to become the greatest thing since sliced bread in my house. At some point we all became insatiably fascinated with Yankee pot roast. We served it over noodles, over rice, as a soup, and even with tortilla chips. It slowly crept into our dinner repertoire, and soon we were eating it at least once a week.

Other classic American dishes weren't so lucky. For me, pork chops and apple sauce were merely a classic line from the Brady Bunch, and not at all a familiar dinner staple. Although we often made pork chops, we never incorporated the classic apple sauce element into the mix. Ours were usually grilled or pan fried and served with a salad and some kind of veggie side. That's why, when I ran into a few old recipes for stuffed pork chops and breaded pork chops served with caramelized apples, or with apple relish, I thought I'd combine those ideas with an apricot pork chop recipe I'd been dying to try. Instead of applesauce on the side and breading the whole chop, I used apple jelly as the adhesive for a breadcrumb coating and then baked the chops in the oven.

I wasn't sure how the topping would fare, but it was actually incredibly successful. I'd never tried baking pork chops before, but found the meat was incredibly juicy without any added grease. The sugars in the jelly developed in the oven and gained a tremendous amount of sweetness, while the very top of the (homemade) breadcrumbs crisped, and the layer beneath it remained pillowy soft. I served the whole thing with steamed green beans sautéed in a little butter and lemon juice with a nice twist of fresh cracked black pepper. Here's how to make this newfangled old school classic for yourself:

Apple Coated Pork Chops

2 bone-in pork chops, at least 1/4 inch thick
2 slices whole wheat or whole grain bread
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 heaping Tbsp apple jelly or marmalade
1/4 tsp ground thyme
vegetable oil (to grease the baking sheet)

1. Preheat oven to 425 F degrees and brush a baking sheet with vegetable or canola oil. Combine bread, thyme and olive oil in food processor and pulse until large breadcrumbs form. Set aside.

2. Salt and pepper pork chops on both sides. Evenly coat one side of each chop with jelly and top with breadcrumb mixture.

3. Place chops on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until cooked through and opaque. Enjoy!


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