In one of my cookbooks Michael Chiarello says, "I could be a vegetarian if it wasn't for pork." I completely agree. In fact, I was raised by a vegetarian, but I've always had a thing for pork. It doesn't matter what form it's in - bacon, sausage, prosciutto, tenderloin, chop, ham, the list goes on, I just like it. I don't know when this started for me. I think it may have been my grandma's ham at Easter. She makes it with an orange juice and brown sugar glaze. It's not overly fancy, but I think the salty sweet taste of the meat was something I was not used to, in a good way.
One year when I was in high school, after Easter Sunday was over, my grandma packed some ham for me to take home in a zip lock bag. When we got home I tossed it in the fridge so my step dad and I could enjoy it later (we were the only meat eaters in our family of five).
The next day, I came home from tennis practice and walked into the kitchen. My sister, who is the most staunch animal lover out there (and I fully respect her for that), screamed out "There is a dead pig under the table!"
My face contorted and I replied, "What the heck are you talking about?"
"It's there under the kitchen table." I peaked under the table and saw the bag of leftover ham.
"This is the ham from Easter. Why is it under the table?"
"I was looking for a snack in the fridge and picked that up. Once I saw what it was, I didn't want to be near it, so I threw it and it ended up under the table," she said.
"How long has it been under there?"
"Since I got home from school." Since she didn't have sports practice like I did, I knew she had been home for hours before me. It was a warm day, so I reluctantly threw the ham away, figuring that it had been out too long. Our family laughs about this story now, but that day I loudly voiced several complaints to my mom about my sister ruining my food just like any high school kid would.
Well, the whole dead pig under a table thing didn't detour me; I still eat pork, and I'm sure my meat eating husband is happy about that. One easy way that I like to prepare it is Pork Milanese, which is an Italian style breaded pork chop. However, at my house we call it "Pounded Pork." One day, Roy walked into the kitchen and I was beating some pork chops with a rolling pin to flatten them. (Okay, even with all my talk of liking meat, I don't eat it that often, so I don't own a meat pounder. A rolling pin seems to work for me.) He said, "you are really pounding the crap out of that pork," and we started laughing. Since that day, he always requests "pounded pork" instead of Pork Milanese. If you want to try it, whatever you end up calling it, here is how I make it:
2 boneless pork chops, each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 panko bread crumbs (see note)
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving
Lay a piece of plastic wrap on cutting board, and place pork chops on top. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top of pork to cover completely. Using a meat mallet (or rolling pin!), pound the meat until it is close to 1/4 inch thick. (Sometimes mine ends up thicker depending on the original thickness of the meat. That is okay. Just try to pound it as thin as you can.)
Prepare a breading station: Place flour in shallow bowl or pan. Place egg in another shallow bowl or pan and beat with fork. Place bread crumbs, cheese, and herbs in third shallow bowl or pan and mix together.
Place a cast iron skillet or other frying pan over medium-high heat and add butter and olive oil to pan. Once butter is melted and pan is hot, sprinkle pork on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, patting off any excess, dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off, and finally place in bread crumb mixture, gently patting crumbs to adhere to both sides of the meat. Place in pan. Repeat with remaining pork chop. Cook until just cooked through, and no longer pink, but still juicy, about 2-3 minutes per side. Serve immediately with lemon wedges to squeeze on top at the table.
Note: Panko are Japanese style bread crumbs and give a good crunch to the coating. They are easy to find at Trader Joe's or other markets. If you can't find them, you can use old bread to make your own crumbs in the food processor. I've also made this with regular Italian bread crumbs from the super market, and while they won't produce as crisp a crust, it will still taste good.
I also made some lemon potatoes to go along with the pork after seeing a great looking recipe in Bon Appetit magazine this month. They were tasty so I thought I would share them too. Here is my version:
1 lb fingerling potatoes (in assorted colors if possible)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potatoes, and cut in half lengthwise. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Lay potatoes in a single layer cut side down. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they have become golden brown on the bottom.
Meanwhile, zest and juice lemon. Add zest and juice to remaining three tablespoons olive oil. Whisk to combine. Take 1 tablespoon of mixture and add it to garlic in small bowl. Once potatoes have cooked for 20 minutes, drizzle them with garlic mixture and toss to combine. Return them to the oven to bake completely through, about another 8-10 minutes.
Place lemon dressing in serving bowl. Remove potatoes from oven and toss with dressing in bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.