The pig is one of the South's most celebrated foods. Barbecue and bacon have long reigned supreme, and their popularity never seems to wane. And every grandmother has a cherished family recipe for smothered and covered chops and buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy. Let's just say we take pride in our pork.
Unfortunately, modern grocery store pork of late has been bred to be lean and flavorless. It's often injected with saline water to add bulk and unnecessary sodium. In fact it barely resembles the meat that Southerners have always known and loved. Until recently it rarely even found it's way into my kitchen. But that has since changed.
Upon moving to Atlanta, I discovered an amazing vendor at my local farmers' market that sold organic, grass fed Berkshire pork. After tasting my first deliciously fatty and flavorful chop, I knew I could never go back to the dry, tasteless grocery store pork of my past. I was so intrigued, in fact, that I asked to visit the farm. (Try asking the grocery store if you can do that!) They happily obliged, and I spent the day wandering through lush pastures and taking photos of happy pigs. Talk about a world of difference.
Now I love incorporating the traditional Southern meat into my diet. I enjoy trying out different cuts for quick and easy weeknight dinners. I have an amazing brown sugar rub I use for pork tenderloin that is really out of this world. (Throw it on the grill. Done and done.) But some night's, I just want something a little more special. These crispy panko pork chops always do the trick. They are super simple to put together but still seem to have that extra spark. Paired with a buttery baked potato, tossed salad, and a glass of rosé? Yes please!
Oh, just try not to eat off all the crunchy panko topping while your boyfriend's not looking...
Panko Pork Chops
Canola or safflower oil
2 thick bone-in pork chops (about 2 pounds)
1/2 cup panko crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 heaping tablespoon minced Italian Parsley
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 375°. Season pork chops with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside.
Mix together panko crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Have three shallow bowls (or cake pans) set aside. Add flour to one bowl, eggs to another, and the panko mixture to the last.
In a heavy skillet or braising pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium high to high heat. Dredge pork chops first in the flour, then the egg, and lastly in the panko mixture, making sure to coat the meat evenly. Add pork chops to the skillet and allow to cook until golden brown and crispy on each side, about 2 minutes per side.
Remove pork chops from the hot pan to a baking sheet. Cook the pork chops in the oven, uncovered, until they reach the internal temperature of 130°, approximately 15 minutes (I find it's best to use a probe thermometer with a temperature alarm for this.) Allow the chops to rest for at least 5 - 10 minutes before serving to allow juices to back into the meat. Please note, the chops temperature will rise about 5 degrees while resting. This is the temperature that I prefer to eat my pork, although the pork board says 145 is best. Feel free to cook them to your desired temperature.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)