It’s time for a pork chop revival, with or without the Shake ’N Bake


It’s been more than 50 years since Shake ’N Bake first hit American grocery shelves.

The breadcrumb mixture that home cooks use to easily add a crust to baked chicken and pork became a cultural phenomenon, inspiring commercials that many of us can still quote to this day.

If you were a kid any time after 1965 — when General Foods debuted the product, later to be sold under the Kraft label — you, too, might remember shaking that night’s dinner in a bag. At some point, though, you might have fallen out of love with pork chops.

We ate a lot of Shake ’N Bake when I was a kid, but in college I decided that Shake ’N Bake pork chops weren’t gourmet enough for my culinary ambitions, so I nearly stopped buying the cut of meat altogether, in part because I didn’t know how to cook it any other way.

In the past year, however, I’ve had several pork chop-loving cooks in my life introduce me to new ways of preparing this inexpensive meat that’s easy to cook and easy to find.

My friend Julia buys thick cuts of pork chops (or “pork steaks,” as she thinks of them) from local farmers and seasons the meat liberally with salt and pepper before searing it in a heavy-bottom pan. The quality of the meat makes a noticeable difference when you use a simple preparation like this, so it’s not a technique I use when cooking conventional pork chops from the supermarket.

Thin cutlets are my boyfriend’s childhood favorite, so we have been cooking them at least a few times a month. He loves to use whatever marinades and sauces are in the fridge to soak the chops before searing them in a pan or grilling them over charcoal. We use the leftovers in breakfast tacos and with sauteed vegetables and pasta.

I’ve introduced my kids to the joys of a homemade version of Shake ’N Bake. They don’t get the reference when I shout, “And I helped!” but they gobble up the crispy cutlets that come out of the oven.

If you haven’t tried pasture-raised pork, it’s worth the extra bucks you’ll spend at a farmers market or specialty market, even if just for a special meal. The local pork, heritage breed or not, will have a completely different flavor than what you might have tried in the past. It’s fattier and richer, with a more nutty and distinct pork taste.

Local ranchers selling pork chops include Smith & SmithFull QuiverGreen Gate FarmFlying Pony FarmBoxcar Farm and GardenPeach CreekRichardson FarmsCountryside Family Farm and Munkebo Farm.

Augustus Ranch sells heritage pork loin chops online and at the Lakeline and Mueller farmers markets. Through Farmhouse Delivery, you can buy a similar thick cut from Peaceful Pork, the ranch operated by Loncito Cartwright, the farmer who ran a popular lamb business for many years.

These recipes might give you a few new ideas for pork chops, whether you’re working with conventionally raised pork and don’t mind adding a bit of a kick with a soy and whiskey sauce or you seek a more simple salt-and-pepper chop paired with flavor-packed balsamic roasted vegetables, a preparation ideal for showing off a more expensive, pasture-raised meat. Another option from Augustus Ranch might inspire you to dry brine your next pork steak.

The homemade Shake ’N Bake recipe? That’s for throwback Thursday dinner night — but be sure to look up the old commercials on YouTube when you have your kids shake the bag.

Soy- and Whiskey-Glazed Pork Chops

Whiskey lends a smoky flavor to this fabulous pan sauce with shiitake mushrooms and fresh ginger.

1 piece fresh ginger (2 inches long), peeled

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound broccoli florets

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce

4 center-cut, thick boneless pork chops

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed

2 tablespoons whiskey

2 tablespoons sugar

Green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Cut half of ginger into quarters and finely chop remaining half. In 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add chopped ginger and cook for 10 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broccoli and mushrooms; cook for 1 minute, stirring; stir in 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon soy sauce.

Cover and cook for 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender and liquid has evaporated. Transfer to four main-dish serving plates; cover with foil and keep warm.

Sprinkle both sides of pork with pepper. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until hot. Add pork; cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until browned on the outside and barely pink in the center, turning once. Transfer pork to plate.

To same skillet, add garlic, whiskey, sugar, quartered ginger, remaining soy sauce and 3 tablespoons water; simmer for 4 to 6 minutes or until mixture resembles the consistency of thin syrup, stirring occasionally. Stir in any accumulated pork juices from plate. Remove and discard garlic and ginger.

To serve, divide pork chops among four plates with broccoli mixture. Spoon sauce over pork. Serves 4.

— From “Skillet Suppers: 65 Delicious Recipes” from the editors of Good Housekeeping and Susan Westmoreland (Hearst, $16.95)

Pork Chops With Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

12 ounces small red potatoes, halved

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 medium-size red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges

1 (8-ounce) package cremini mushrooms, halved

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 ounce Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Heat a large heavy roasting pan over high heat on stove. Sprinkle the pork with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pan; swirl to coat. Add the pork to the pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Place the pork on a plate (pork will not be cooked through). Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the potatoes to the pan, cut sides down; cook 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Combine the vinegar, tomato paste, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper and remaining oil in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine 2 tablespoons balsamic mixture, thyme, onion and mushrooms in a bowl, tossing to coat. Add mushroom mixture to the pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Arrange pork chops over the vegetables; bake 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 145 degrees. Remove the pork from the pan. Sprinkle vegetable mixture with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Divide vegetable mixture among 4 plates. Top each serving with pork chops, remaining balsamic vinegar mixture, parsley and Gorgonzola cheese. Serves 4.

— From “Cooking That Counts: 1,200 to 1,500-Calorie Meal Plans to Lose Weight Deliciously” from the editors of Cooking Light (Oxmoor House, $21.95)

Homemade Shake ’N Bake

3 cups breadcrumbs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon dried onion flakes

1 pinch dried basil leaves

1 pinch dried parsley

1 pinch dried oregano

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients until the breadcrumbs are no longer clumpy from the oil. Store in a Mason jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to two months.

When ready to use, heat oven to 425 degrees. Pour a cup of the mix in a large zip-top bag. Pat the pork chops (or chicken breasts) with a wet paper towel so the skin is moist enough for the breadcrumbs to stick. Place one pork chop at a time in the bag, seal and shake. Remove the pork chop from the bag, shaking off excess breading, and place on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil. Repeat with remaining chops and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

— Adapted from a recipe on allrecipes.com

Baked Honey Mustard Pork Chops With Roasted Brussels Sprouts

In this recipe, we will slowly simmer the pork chops in a tasty sauce and finish cooking with a blast of heat. Roasting vegetables or other ingredients at the same time makes this meal quick to put together. By pre-seasoning the pork chops ahead of time (also called dry brining), the flavor will be enhanced. Do this a day prior to preparing the dish. The salt will first pull moisture from the chops but then get reabsorbed over time along with the other spices, which will create more flavor in each bite.

— Kent Schoberle

2 (1-inch) thick, bone-in pork chops (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

Salt, pepper and powdered ginger, for seasoning

One bunch of Brussels sprouts, whole (or quartered, if they are large)

1 red onion, sliced

For the sauce:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 tablespoons brown mustard (such as Dijon or spicy brown)

3 tablespoons honey

1/2 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves (about 5 to 6 sprigs)

4 tablespoons water

Salt and pepper, to taste

To begin the dry brine, place pork chops on a plate and season both sides liberally with salt, pepper and ginger. Make sure all the surfaces are rubbed down with the spices and either place in the fridge on a plate or keep the pork chops in a sealed zip-top plastic bag. You can keep your pork chops in the fridge for up to two days.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place vegetables on a tray and drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then place them in the oven.

To prepare the sauce, melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the chopped garlic and stir for one minute. Add the mustard and honey and stir until lightly simmering. Add the thyme and water and let everything come to a gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the pork chops on a tray or baking dish and pour the sauce on top. Turn to coat the chops evenly in the sauce. Place the dish or tray into oven and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the pork chops over and use a spoon to pour more sauce on top. Place the dish back into the oven for another 15 minutes. Check the vegetables for doneness. Pull from the oven if the sprouts are fork tender; otherwise, take them out when they are fully cooked.

Set oven to broil and place the tray with the pork chops close to the heating element. Let the meat get golden brown underneath the broiler, which should take about five to six minutes. Pull the meat from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Save the sauce on the tray for drizzling over the top of the chops once they are sliced and plated.

Once the pork has rested, cut the bone away from each chop by running your knife close to the bone between the meat. The bone will likely make an L shape, depending on the chop. Once the bone is removed, slice each chop side to side into 1/2 inch slices. When you cut across the chop, you will have a piece of the fat cap on each slice. Arrange the pork chop slices on the plate with the roasted vegetables and drizzle the leftover honey mustard sauce over the top.

— Kent Schoberle, Augustus Ranch



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