Thursday, April 28, 2016

Parmesan Ranch Pork Chops

Who remembers Shake 'n Bake, that unique if not silly little product that brought so much fun and flavor to family life in the 60s and 70s?  It was even touted as a health food, as it was meant to be a substitute for frying pork or chicken.  Adverts of the day joyously hawked Shake 'n Bake as they showed mothers and children blithely preparing dinner, and it couldn't be any simpler.  The commercial would usually end with the child uttering the catchphrase "And I helped," sometimes in such a painfully bastardized Southern accent that it grated on my true Southern ears.

Well, last I checked, S&B is still around, and I must admit that before I got into gourmet cooking I used it a time or two as an adult.  I actually never got to utter that phrase 'And I helped," vis a vis Shake 'n Bake, as my mother never bought it.  She was more into frying things like pork chops and chicken anyway, but otherwise was too frugal to shell out whatever they charged for S&B back in the 60s and 70s.  She probably figured "why pay 39 cents for something I can make with breadcrumbs and some seasoning?"

Well, with Shake 'n Bake running a few bucks a box these days, that logic couldn't be any sounder.  Plus, you can make something much better in minutes than what comes in that S&B box, and avoid things like high fructose corn syrup and Thiamin Mononitrate (whatever that is),

So, anyhoo, this really isn't a Shake 'n Bake clone recipe--there's no shaking involved, just dredging, and we also have a marinating step in Ranch Dressing.  I like to make my own Ranch (homemade is always better these days, no?) but it only lasts a few days since there are no preservatives, so this recipe is a great way to use it up before it turns.  Otherwise, store-bought is fine for this recipe, so don't fret.


2 Pork Chops
1/2 Cup Ranch Dressing
1 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Rubbed Sage
1/2 Teaspoon Salt


Pat Pork Chops dry.  I'm using boneless here, but bone in would be fine--just remember there's a bone in there under all that coating when you're done.  Pour Ranch Dressing in plastic bag and add pork chops.

Toss to coat chops.

Let chops marinate for a few hours in the bags inside your fridge

Preheat oven to 450F

Mix remaining dry ingredients in a bowl.  Dry sage is fine here.  Make sure to use Panko breadcrumbs instead of regular--they'll make a much better breading.

Dredge the ranch-coated pork chops in the breading...

...until it is well-coated with the cheese/breadcrumb mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes at 450F, then reduce heat to 350F and continue to bake until pork chops are done (140F on a meat thermometer)

Note, I'm using pretty thick chops in this recipe, about 3/4 to 1 inch, so the cooking time shown above is merited for that thickness.  If you use thinner chops, such as those really thin 'family value' chops grocery stores sometimes sell, check the temp sooner, like at 15 minutes.  If you don't have a meat thermometer, watch for the juices to run clear as a sign of doneness.  (you really should have a meat thermometer, though!)

Anyhoo, serve them up with some hearty sides, like the green beans and mashed potatoes we've served here.

Until next time,


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Bean Pot Country Ribs

If you remember my Black-Eyed Pea post from January, you may remember that I got a new bean pot for Christmas.  I'd been wanting one ever since I saw Gabriele Corcos cooking with one in Tuscany on the Cooking Channel.

My new Bean Pot

Bean Pots are an ancient, old school style of cooking vessel--they've been around since at least Colonial times and maybe even longer.  While their main claim to fame is cooking beans, they are very much like a Dutch oven and can be used on other slow cooking occasions.  This dish is something similar to what I saw Gabriele cooking on the Extra Virgin show, but I couldn't find his recipe so I sort of made up my own.  

Oh, and the country ribs in this recipe aren't really ribs at all--they're just strips of chuck roast cut to resemble ribs.

But they are perfect for this technique, as the bean pot will transform them from toughness to tenderness over a nice slow roasting.

Bean Pot Country Ribs

1.5 pounds country ribs (chuck)
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 onion, diced
3 cups veal stock
12 oz consommé
1 cup red wine
12 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 325˚F

Heat olive oil in skillet. Brown the 'ribs' in the olive oil.

Reserve the ribs.  Saute onion in olive oil.

When they start to turn golden, add the garlic and cook another two minutes.

Place beef and onions in the bean pot or a Dutch oven if that's what you're using.

Add celery, carrots, and onion/garlic mixture.  Add the wine.

Add the tomatoes, thyme and veal stock.

If you've never used veal stock before, you're in for a treat.  It's much richer and complex than beef stock, yet at the same time delicate and subtle.  I'd use it all the time in place of beef if it weren't so expensive and hard to find.  You can usually find it at places like Central Market.  Or, you can make your own.  I've yet to do that, but I plan to try it.

Add the consommé.

This is another sort of secret ingredient.  Consomm√© is a rich broth popularized by the French and it is usually eaten like a simple soup, but I find it makes a nice addition as an ingredient in dishes like this.

Cover pot and cook in oven at 350˚F until beef is tender.  Check it every thirty minutes or so to make sure liquid hasn't cooked down too much.  If it does, add a little more stock.  After two hours, check to see if beef is tender.  If it is, great, if not, let it go another thirty minutes to an hour.  When it is done, the dish will have a stew-like consistency.

It can be held warm until dinner time.  Taste and adjust with salt and pepper to your liking.

Serve with some crusty bread or toast points.


Until next time,