Monday, December 10, 2007

Panko-Crusted Pork Chops with a Wasabi-Ginger Sauce

Let me start this post by saying when I posted Post-Holiday Quick Meals several weeks ago, it never occurred to me to remind readers of the link I have on the right side for The Pantry Chef. This is a great resource where you can find recipes by checking off what type of pantry items you have on hand.

The reason I mention this link is that last night, when I was trying to decide what to do with the pork chops I had on hand, I used this site to find an idea for dinner. Unfortunately when you have a well stocked pantry, it provided me recipes for bean soup and fettuccini alfredo, but nothing exciting for pork chops. However from this site, I found a recipe for Wasabi and Panko-Crusted Pork Chops (followed several links on the top right corner) that sounded very interesting and ended up tasting even better!

These chops are light and flaky with a panko crust. Panko [pronounced PAHN-koh] or Japanese for “bread crumbs” translates as pan the Japanese word for “bread” and ko meaning “child of”. They are coarser, more flake-like than traditional bread crumbs giving them more surface area thus making for a lighter, crispier coating. Usually white in color because the bread crusts have been removed, they can be occasionally found in a darker, tanner color if the crusts were left on. I now use panko for my crab and salmon cakes. About 5 years ago, it was only available in Asian markets, but now I find it in the international aisle of all the larger markets. It usually comes in bags. If you do not have any available, you may substitute cracker crumbs or crushed melba toast.

Wasabi [pronounced WAH-sah-bee] is often called Japanese horseradish. Wasabi is a paste made from grating the root of an Asian plant. It is most often seen served with sushi. It has a sharp, pungent flavor much like horseradish. It is available in both a paste form and a powder form, again in the international aisle of most markets. If you do not have wasabi on hand, which I did not last night, you can combine horseradish and dry mustard to make a paste. It is great addition to mashed potatoes or added to sauces for a great, unexpected bite.

In about 35 minutes, dinner was ready. The menu consisted of Panko-Crusted Pork Chops with a Wasabi-Ginger Sauce, Sesame Orzo and Buttered Carrots. I started by gathering all of the spices and condiments I would need for this recipe: panko, sake, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, cooking oil, sugar, dry mustard and orzo. From the refrigerator, I pulled out an egg, the pork chops, carrots, ginger, horseradish, green onions and chicken broth. When cooking, I like to make sure I have all the ingredients close at hand to speed up the process and I am not wasting time looking for ingredients later on. It does not help that I store many of my ingredients in the basement since my kitchen does not have adequate space.

I began by turning my oven to 200°F so it would be warm when the pork was finished. I then started a pot of water boiling for the orzo (rice-shaped pasta) and began peeling and chopping my carrots. I placed the carrots on the stove in a steamer basket so that I could turn on the heat when I was almost finished cooking so they were not overcooked. I added oil to a skillet set over medium heat and while the oil was heating I added an egg and panko to 2 separate, shallow dishes. I quickly whisked the egg and dipped each pork chop into first the egg, then the panko and added to the hot oil.

While the chops were browning, I added all of my liquid ingredients and horseradish and mustard to a small bowl setting it next to my skillet. I then peeled and grated the ginger and quickly sliced a few green onions. About the time I turned the pork chops, my water was boiling so I added a large pinch of salt and orzo to the water, then turned the heat on high for my steamed carrots. When the pork chops were nicely browned on each side and had reached an internal temperature of 155°F, I removed them from the pan and kept them warm in the oven. I added the ginger to the pan, stirring continuously and before it started to brown, I added my liquid mixture to the pan, stirring vigorously scraping the pieces that had stuck to the bottom. I drained the orzo and added a splash of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds; drained the carrots and added a slab of butter; and removed the pork from the oven, spooned the sauce on top and sprinkled with green onions. Presto! dinner was ready.

I modified the original recipe slightly and this is my creation:

Serves 4
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 cup panko
1 large egg white
4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup sake or dry sherry
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add egg white to a shallow dish and beat until frothy. Add panko to another dish. Dip pork in egg white; dredge in panko. Place chops in skillet in a single layer, making sure to not over crowd. Make in two batches if need be.

While the pork is cooking, add the broth, sake, soy sauce, sugar and wasabi to a small bowl, keeping near the stovetop.

Cook pork chops for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until golden brown, adding more oil to pan if it becomes dry and chops begin to stick. Once they reach an internal temperature of 155°F, remove the pork to a oven-safe dish, sprinkle with salt and keep warm in the oven.

Add ginger to pan, stirring constantly. Before the ginger begins to brown, add the broth-wasabi mixture to the pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Continue stirring and cooking until the sauce has slightly thickened and all the bits are free from the bottom of the pan.

Serve each pork chop with several generous spoonfuls of sauce and a sprinkling of green onions.
Adapted from Melanie Barnard, Cooking Light, MARCH 2006

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