Monday, June 20, 2016

Baked, Breaded, Pork Cutlets

Don't be put off by the fennel or the lemon! They are pure Italian!

Of course, first a story. When I was a middle-aged starving artist with a small gallery/gift shop in Michigan, I was fortunate to have a freind who was a contractor. Why fortuanate? Well, during the lean winter months when there were no tourists, I worked mostly as his "gopher" on large projects that kept me employed and paying the bills.

Eating out on lunch breaks was the norm. You know, the usual fast-food places. Eventually, it was easy to get sick of them. One day, I prepared a mess of these cutlests with a side bowl of seasoned rice. We always had a microwave handy. Well, one of the workers went bonkers over these. Back then, I really did not have a recipe, just a method. I'm not sure if I even used the fennel. He just begged and begged for the recipe.

Anyway, breaded pork cutlets have always been a favorite of mine. They are pretty easy to prepare and lend themselves to a variety of savory seasonings, either dried or fresh. There was a time, when I was a young teacher, that a one-pound package was less than two dollars! Still, they are pretty inexpensive!

Since then, I have adopted this recipe more along an "Italian" recipe. Pork for Italians would always include fennel and lemon. Don't be put off. Remember, Italian sausage is mostly fennel which gives it such a great and unique taste.

Cut from pork loin, look for cutlets that have some marbling (white fat streaks) in them, a bit of fat on the edge (the more the better), and that are no more than 1/2-inch thick. Especially seek cutlets that have a lot of "red." That means they were cut close to the pork tenderloin. Usually, there are about 4-5 to a pack, a bit over a pound.

It is important to season the meat, not the flour. I like my bread-coating a bit on the salty side. I also like to add sliced garlic to the oil for a bit more flavor. During the browning, I sometimes add a sprig of rosemary and thyme for added flavor. If you can't find savory, just omit or use a spinkle of oregano. Savory tastes like oregano, but it is much milder in taste.

These are also great cold as a sandwich or on a biscuit. The method is pretty simple:
1. Season
2. Dip in flour
3. Coat in a wet wash
4. Coat in bread/cheese crumbs
5. Lightly fry to brown
6. Finish off in an oven

  • Rub for 4-5 Cutlets (and this is Approximate):
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered savory
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed (do not omit)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper or freshly cracked pepper
  • Self-rising flour, about two tablespoons per cutlet, for dredging.
  • Coating:
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten with one tablespoon of water or 
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten with one tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • Combine on a plate:
  • 1 cup plain, fine-sifted breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup canned Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • Oil:
  • A good one-half inch of olive oil or vegetable oil ... or melted lard ... or a combination thereof depending on size of your pan
  • 1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 rosemary sprigs (optional)
  • 3-4 thyme sprigs (optional)

With a damp cloth or paper towel, wipe each side of each cutlet. Season both sides, with spice mixture, pressing the seasonings into the meat.

Gently coat each cutlet in flour. Lay aside.

Dip each cutlet in the egg-wash mixture and then dredge in the coating mixture being to sure to coat evenly. Lay aside for about 15 minutes to allow coating to set up and to adhere. Why? When you fry them, you don't want the coating to separate from the meat.

Once coated, allow the cutlets to sit at room temperature for at least fifteen minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 375-400 F. degrees. Line a small cooking tray or cookie sheet with tin foil. Spritz with cooking spray.

Warm oil in medium-large skillet over medium heat. Just before adding the cutlets, add thin-sliced garlic. If desired, add rosemary or thyme sprigs.When garlic begins to turn brown you can either remove it or add cutlets. Gently fry on each side for about 1-2 minutes, just until golden brown.  Remove and drain on paper towels.

Place cutlets on sheet and bake at 375-400 F. degrees for about10-20 minutes are so, flipping halfway through. Allow to rest ten minutes. Serves with lemon slices.