The Cook’s Illustrated Magazine is a great read, since it really goes into detail about how the cooks in America’s Test Kitchen came up with each recipe. The only problem I have is that their idea of a “perfect” recipe isn’t always in line with mine – but when they are, they are real winners. A good example of this, for me, is their recipe for crunchy, oven-baked pork chops. This recipe was featured on a segment of the America’s Test Kitchen TV show (it was online, but I’m not sure if you’ll be able to access it without a subscription to their website), where it was filmed from start to finish and the recipe, including the amounts, were given.
I liked the idea of the oven-baked pork chops because they’re a little healthier than fried and the test kitchen kitchen crew was very convincing when they said they were just as good. And they were right. These pork chops were easy to make, on the healthier side and absolutely delicious. The crumb coating was crunchy and flavorful while the pork was moist and tender. I’d recommend not going any thicker than 3/4-inch for the pork chops, as I find that thicker chops tend to be a little bit tougher.
The secret to these is the crumb coating. The crumb layer is made with a combination fresh bread crumbs, garlic and shallots that is toasted in the oven in advance. This gives it a great brown color that it wouldn’t get if you put it on the meat untoasted. There is also an extra battering step, where the chops are dipped in a mixture of egg whites, dijon mustard and flour, which really helps the crumbs adhere and also makes the coating a little extra thick (and therefore, extra crunchy!). The whole dish took less than an hour to make, and most of that was the cooking time for the pork chops. It’s an easy, healthy dinner for a weeknight – and leaves you feeling like you can splurge on some cookies or ice cream for dessert!
Crunchy Oven-Baked Pork Chops
(adapted slightly from a recipe seen on America’s Test Kitchen)
3 cloves garlic
1 large shallot
4 slices of sandwich bread
2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tbsp dijon mustard
6 tbsp all purpose flour
4 3/4-inch thick boneless pork chops
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a food processor, whizz garlic and shallot until very finely chopped (or chop by hand).
Break sandwich bread up into large chunks. Add bread to the food processor, along with the garlic and shallot, and pulse bread until uniform crumbs form. Add vegetable oil, salt and pepper and pulse a few more times to mix well.
Spread crumb mixture into an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring once, until crumbs are a dark golden brown. They will not brown much once they are on the pork chops, so aim for a very deep brown.
Set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes
Turn oven up to 425F. Lightly grease a wire rack (like a cooling rack) and place on a baking sheet.
In a large dish or pie plate, place 1/2 cup of flour.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg whites, dijon mustard and additional 6 tbsp flour until a smooth batter forms. Pour into another large dish or pie plate.
Place cooled breadcrumbs into a third dish or pie plate.
Pat pork chops dry with a paper towel and trim off any excess fat. Working with one at a time, coat each completely in flour, dip into the egg batter and thoroughly coat with crumbs. Make sure to coat all sides of the meat. Use tongs if you don’t want your hands to get too messy. Place each pork chop on the prepared, lightly greased rack.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until the pork registers 155F with an internal read thermometer.