|Pork Chops and Peas|
May 22nd, 2006
I don't think this blog would exist if I lived in California, as when the sun comes out I just do not want to cook. There's gardening to be done, or bike rides in the neighborhood, or a last run to the park before it starts to get chilly. And if none of those sound appealing there's always just sitting out back with a glass of wine laughing at the boys as they run naked through the sprinklers. Luckily for you though dear readers, I'm safely tucked away in Seattle where we have blog-friendly weather nine months out of the year. We have been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures this spring however, and last weekend was forecast to be our final little patch of sun for at least a week. So no real cooking went on here Friday or Saturday, unless heating up some ramen counts as cooking. On Sunday it finally started to rain just as I was cleaning up from my weekend gardening efforts, and after letting Ian run around in it for a while (sans garments of course), I finally turned my thoughts to dinner.
I'm so conflicted about cooking for the kids right now. On one hand I feel like if I spend some time learning some more classic Americana type dishes I'll have more options when it comes to cooking dinners that residents of our house under the age of 33 might actually eat. (Quick digression - Ian (3) has decided that not only is he ten years old, but so am I, engendering many repetitions of the following conversation. Ian: How old are you mommy? Me: I'm ten, how old are you? Ian: I ten. Jay (from the other room and much aggreived): Mommy you are not ten! You're 33. Me: Thanks for reminding me honey.) Alright, back on topic - I could learn to cook food that the kids might eat. But then I'd have to eat it too, and well, that's the rub. Besides the fact that I'll gain ten pounds, isn't it better to continue to prepare fresh, healthy, seasonal food that I love and hope it will eventually rub off on them than to spend my time searching the internet for different ways to bread things? Should I bow to society's concept of what kids should like to eat (breaded meat products, mac 'n cheese, hamburgers, etc.) even though in my heart that's not what I want them to be eating? But on the other hand is it fair to serve them another plain chicken breast while we eat a Thai chicken curry, or plain pasta while we eat ours tossed with broccoli and lemon? Ugh, I'm not expressing this very well, but I suppose that reflects the murky mess of guilt, perfectionism, and food snobbery that lurks in the deeper recesses of my brain.
I flip wildly back and forth between searching for 'kid-friendly' meal ideas and just throwing up my hands and cooking whatever I want and hoping they'll eat some of it some day. On Sunday I was in one of my kid-friendly phases, brought on most likely by the promotional copy of Cook's Country magazine I received in the mail. I don't quite get this magazine - it's from the people who bring us Cook's Illustrated and think nothing of testing multitudes of recipes to determine the "best" pie crust, grilled salmon, or pot roast. They've grafted that test kitchen approach onto this Country magazine - which to them apparently means the kind of cooking on display at your local PTA potluck. It's a weird, unweildy combination, but I like the color scheme on the cover! And I actually found their tomato buying guide pretty informative. But in the end I just have no need for cupcake decorating contests, tips on how to raid the grocery salad bar to simplify your stir-fries, or how using Marshmallow Fluff will make the best homemade fudge. However I did put my food snobbery aside long enough to try their Quick and Crunchy Pork Chops (Shaking up Shake 'n Bake!). I would put this recipe squarely in the 'creative ways to use mayo' category, but what the hell, it didn't kill me. If you like crunchy breaded meats or have kids that do you might like this recipe. As three members of our family fall into one of those categories it was a hit at our house.
I don't think you really need a whole package of Melba toast for the breading, I ended up discarding maybe a third of it, but it's probably easier just to make the recipe as is and throw away the extra rather than trying to recalculate it. I used the sesame flavor of Melba toast which was tasty. My only complaint would be that cooking the chops on a rack above a baking sheet rather than directly on the sheet was supposed to prevent them from getting soggy, but mine were still a bit soggy on the bottom. Maybe flipping them once during the cooking time would help.
While I was making the chops I decided to give the boys some vegetables to snack on to get that part of dinner out of the way. I rediscovered a bag of the first shelling peas of the season stashed in the fridge and poured them in a bowl for Jay and Ian who were happily involved in multiple art projects. Shelling peas are great because snapping the pods open and digging out the sweet green peas gets the kids involved. Before I knew it I actually had to come out of the kitchen and break up the scuffle over who got more pea pods. That's right, I actually had to break up a fight between my kids over who got the last vegetable. I do believe it's getting a bit chilly down in hell right about now.
Quick and Crunchy Pork Chopsserves 41 (5-ounce) box Melba toast, broken into rough pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp sugar
4 - 6 tbsp mayonnaise
4 boneless pork chops, 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Smash the Melba toast into rough pieces inside its bag. Pour into a large freezer bag along with all the spices. Smash to bits with a rolling pin or mallet type thingy. The texture you create should be of a fine meal with some larger bits sprinkled about. Add 2 tbsp of the mayo and squish it around inside the bag.
Put the breading mixture on a large plate and squirt some more mayo into a little bowl. Set a rack over a baking sheet. One pork chop at a time, spread some mayo on the chop to coat, then roll in the breading and pat and press the breading to the chop to make it stick. Transfer the coated chops to the rack. Bake in the oven until an instant read thermometer reads 145° to 150°, between 16 to 22 minutes.
Remove and let rest for five minutes or so before serving.
-Jeremy Sauer, Cooks Country promotional issue