Monday, August 23, 2010

Not Harriet Homemaker's Pork Chops

A pack of pork chops: an easy weeknight protein, “the other white meat,” a dinner that’s Harriet Homemaker approved. You know Harriet, the illustrious image of perfection pulled from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens circa 1950s; an idyllic hallucination of a woman at work in the home. When Rosie was done riveting, they told her to stop flexing her muscles and start acting like a lady. They dressed her in a housedress, put an apron around her waist, and tied it in a bow. With her makeup just right and her hair just so, she cooks and cleans and looks good doing it too; even while washing dishes, that one’s always with a smile.

Harriet loves pork chops because, just like chicken, she can whip them up into a delicious meal in no time—just leave under the broiler or something, and it’s pure succulence! For many, that is much easier said than done. Just like the plasticity of her image, Harriet makes everything seem better than it is. Let’s face it; her friendly and adorable looks are for the most part, a farce. I’m sure if Harriet were real, she’d suffer from extreme exhaustion just from trying to try so hard. Her cheeks would probably tremble right off from excessive smiling. While I imagine woman of that era to be dressed similarly to their 1950’s pop culture depiction when doing housework, I do not see them flashing Colgate pearlies nice and wide over a stack of pots in the sink. At some point, Harriet must surely clinch her teeth in frustration, wishing that everyone would just eff off. Today we call these domestic marvels, Martha Stewart.

No matter how quick and flawless cooking pork chops appear to be or how happy the person making them looks, they can be tricky. A lot of home cooks get turned off by pork chops when their efforts constantly yield dry, tasteless results. They try valiantly to execute a preparation like the ones that Harriet or Martha’s pose beside, but to no avail and certainly no tireless smiles. People are often so afraid of undercooking pork that they overcook it, “just to be safe.” And overcooked pork chops, in a word--suck. I’m sorry Harriet, but pork chops, even your pork chops--pineapple rings, maraschino cherries, and all, are not always as simply heavenly as you make them seem. But, they can be.

General rule: be careful not to overcook. Depending on thickness, pork chops shouldn’t take longer than 6-10 minutes total. Do not be afraid of a little pink in the middle. Trichinosis, the parasite to be blamed for the fear of underdone pork, dies at 137 degrees Fahrenheit. If your meat is at an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re good. Now that you have the back pocket knowledge to cook a pork chop without reducing it to a desiccated mass, you can have fun figuring out tasty ways to build upon the all-American weeknight standby. I bet you can create something even better than Harriet could ever shake her wooden spoon at.

This week, I prepared my pork chops breaded with panko breadcrumbs and Parmigiano Reggiano. I fried them and finished in the oven for a crispy outside, and a fully cooked but juicy inside. To add a little more excitement to the dish, I prepared a pizzaiola sauce to spoon over the top. Pizzaiola begins with “pizza” for a reason; it basically means any sauce that you can put on a pizza. I like my pizza with peppers, so I put some in my sauce, which was a bit thinner than the kind you would normally get on a pizza. You can also add mushrooms or nothing at all. It was an Italian restaurant-inspired pork chop dish sure to knock the ruffles right out of Harriet Homemaker’s apron.

Parm and Panko-Crusted Pork Chop Pizzaiola
Yield: 5 Boneless Pork Chops

Breading & Frying:
- 1 cup panko breadcrumb
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- Olive oil for frying

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Set up three separate vessels. In one, put the flour; in the second, the egg; and in the third, combine breadcrumb with cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. To bread: first, dredge each pork chop in the flour; next, dip into the egg; and finally, cover with seasoned breadcrumb mixture.
• In a deep skillet, heat olive oil. When the oil is hot enough, add the pork chops and brown on each side. Put on an oven safe tray or plate and finish in the oven for 25-30 minutes. While the pork chops are finishing in the oven, prepare the sauce.

Pizzaiola Sauce:
- Olive oil for sautéing
- ½ medium onion
- 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1-2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic
- 1, 14 oz can diced tomato, with sauce
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- Handful of fresh basil, chopped or torn
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped or torn

• Heat olive oil in a deep skillet and sauté onion until translucent. Add peppers and cook until soft; about 10-15 minutes. Once the peppers are cooked, add in garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant, add tomatoes and white wine; bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let the sauce cook down and thicken a little. Finish with fresh basil and parsley just before serving. Serve sauce over pork chops.
Pork Chop on Foodista


Lazaro Cooks! said...

Great post and solid information on pork. There is so much misinformation out there. If you have a good piece of pork and handle it correctly, there is no need to fear eating it pink in the center.

People are just very ignorant sometimes.


Kate said...

I volunteer to taste test :-) Those look fantastic. Love the colors in the photos!!! kateiscooking

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5 Star Foodie said...

The pork chops sound fantastic with panko and parmesan crust! Great info on pork!

Rick said...

Pork is my favorite. Never knew all this info.

Koci said...

I love the story of Harriet Homemaker! I've always imagined that despite her loving smile, there's an eye twitch just waiting to happen. I love cooking just as much as the next person, but after a marathon run of it I'm usually wiped out.

Alisa said...

Fantastic post!I couldnt help but laugh at some parts.Harriet Homemaker it is :)I saw your blog from the foodie blog roll and I like what you have here.if you won't mind I'd love to guide Foodista readers to this post.Just add the foodista widget to the end of this post and it's all set, Thanks!

Cristina said...

Harriet Homemaker reminds me of the mom on "Leave It To Beaver" Doing gardening and cleaning house in a dress, heels and pearls and all made up! ;)

I adore pork chops. Haven't made them in awhile. I'll be thinking of them now and will want to bread them with Panko breadcrumbs too.

Frank said...

Excellent advice on making pork chops! I totally agree they're actually very tricky to make well. The problem is that pork today is raised so lean that there is no fat on them to keep them moist...and the flavor suffers as well, so a nice pizzaiola sauce makes perfect sense, too!

mysimplefood said...

Porky is my favourite meat actually. Love all your info.

Foodessa said...

Although I wouldn't exactly describe my kitchen as paradise...I certainly would call the dishes made in it a small piece of paradise ;o)

Thanks for sharing the proper info on pork.

Ciao for now,

Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron said...

Great info on pork! I just made cereal crusted chicken :) I think we were on the same mood of crusting!
The pork chop looked divine and the sauce you served with...yum!

Stephanie said...

I love the idea of using panko bread crumbs on pork chops. Lots of useful info too, great post!