December 08, 2010

Sesame Pork Chops with Sweet and Zesty Sauce + Sesame Asparagus

I'm rather fond of pan-fried breaded pork chops and of Asian seasonings, so I decided to combine the two in one dish.  The result:  moist, perfectly-cooked pork enclosed in a crispy, flavorful coating and topped with a thick, sweet and spicy sauce.

Pork chops alone - even delicious ones - don't make for a very balanced meal, so I decided I'd serve these chops with flavored rice and a vegetable.  Since I decided to use sesame seeds in the pork chop breading, I decided to make a side dish of sesame-flavored, fried asparagus.  The result:  tender-crisp, flavorful asparagus that went along great with the chops, but which would go equally well as a side with any number of other dishes.

I always try to give credit where due, and as such, I should note that in coming up with the pork chop recipe, I did draw inspiration from a couple of recipes first published by the fine folk at America's Test Kitchen.  Specifically, I took a couple ideas from the recipes for Crispy Sesame Pork Cutlets (I'm not sure where it was first printed, but I got it from America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers, Fall 2010) and Hoisin-Sesame Sauce for Pork (from the December 2006 issue of Cook's Illustrated).  That said, the recipe I ended up with is more than different enough from either of those inspirations for me to feel completely comfortable claiming it as my own.   The asparagus recipe, while quite simple, is completely my own. 

And the rice?  Chicken-flavored stuff you buy in packets in the supermarket.  While I'm not a huge fan of such convenience foods, they have their uses... like, when I'm trying out two new recipes while still hoping to put a meal on the table in a reasonably short amount of time,

Sesame Pork Chops with Sweet and Zesty Sauce

Yield = 4 servings

4       1/2" thick center-cut boneless pork chops,
         5 ounces each, trimmed of excess fat
1       tablespoon minced garlic
1       tablespoon soy sauce
1       tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
2       teaspoons Asian hot chili oil
1       teaspoon Asian (dark) sesame oil + 1 teaspoon
3/4    cups sesame seeds
1       teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
1       dried Chinese red chili pepper
1       cup panko bread crumbs
1/2    teaspoon garlic powder
1/2    cup all-purpose flour
2       tablespoons cornstarch + 2 teaspoons
2       large eggs
2       teaspoons fresh minced ginger
1       fresh lemon
1/2    cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4    cup orange juice
1/4    cup hoisin sauce
1/2    teaspoon sugar
2       scallions, white and green parts, thinly-sliced
         salt and pepper to taste
1/3    cup canola oil, + 1 tablespoon

Pound each pork chop until it is about 1/8" thick.  Add minced garlic, soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, hot chili oil and 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil to a ziploc bag. Add the pork chops, seal the bag, shake thoroughly to coat and refrigerate to marinate for 1 hour or more, turning occasionally to evenly marinate the chops.

Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet over low heat, stirring often, until they are a light golden-brown.  Transfer 1/4 cup of the toasted sesame seeds to a small bowl and set aside; add the remainder to a wide, flat dish and set aside.  Chop the dried chili pepper and use the same skillet to toast the Szechuan peppercorns and chopped dried chili over low heat, stirring often, until very fragrant (about 2 minutes).  Add the roasted peppercorns and chili pieces to the wide, flat dish.  

When the contents of the dish have cooled thoroughly, grind them fine in a spice grinder or food processor, then return them to the medium bowl.  Next add 1/2 cup of panko crumbs to the spice grinder or food processor and grind them for about 10 seconds.  Add the ground panko, the other 1/2 cup of panko, the reserved sesame seeds and the garlic powder to the dish; stir to mix, then set aside.

In another wide, flat dish, mix the all-purpose flour with two tablespoons of corn starch; set aside.  In yet another wide, flat dish, beat two eggs.  Set aside.

Zest the lemon fully, to get approximately two teaspoons zest.   Halve the lemon and squeeze all the juice (approximately two tablespoons) into a medium bowl.  Add the lemon zest, chicken broth, orange juice, hoisin sauce, sugar and remaining two teaspoons of cornstarch; stir to mix, then set aside.

Remove the pork chops from the bag.  Pat dry with a paper towel and set aside.   Transfer the remaining marinade into a small bowl and set aside.

Season the pork chops to taste with salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  One at a time, coat the pork chops in flour and shake off loose flour, then dip in the beaten egg and allow excess egg to drip off, then dredge in the sesame-panko mixture, pressing to help the coating adhere.  Place each coated pork chop on a wire rack.

Heat 1/3 cup canola oil in a skillet large enough to hold all four pork chops (if you do not have a skillet that large, reduce the amount of oil accordingly and fry the chops in batches).  Once the oil is just starting to smoke, add the pork chops.  Fry the pork chops until the coating is a deep golden color and crisp.  Clean the wire rack while the pork chops are frying, then return to the rimmed baking sheet.  Drain on a paper-towel lined plate, then transfer to the wire rack and cover with foil to keep the chops warm.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of canola oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the ginger.  Stir-fry 1 minute, then add the marinade and cook another minute.  Add the broth/juice mixture and bring to a boil. Add the scallions and remaining teaspoon sesame oil and continue to cook until the sauce thickens. 

Arrange the pork chops on a serving platter.  Spoon half the sauce over the chops, transferring the rest to a small bowl.  Serve immediately, spooning more sauce over the chops as desired. 

Sesame Asparagus

yield = 4 side-dish servings

1        tablespoon sesame seeds
1        tablespoon canola oil
1        teaspoon Asian (dark) sesame oil
1        pound fresh asparagus spears, hard ends trimmed
          salt and pepper to taste

Roast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over low heat.  Cook, stirring often, until they are light golden-brown.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Add the canola oil and sesame oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the asparagus spears to the skillet in a single layer (if the skillet is not large enough, cook the asparagus in batches).  Cook,  turning often, until the asparagus is slightly wrinkled and browned in spots.  Transfer to a serving platter, season with salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.  Serve.

Since I made both of these dishes to serve together, I roasted the sesame seeds needed for the asparagus along with those I needed for the pork chops.  After frying the chops, I disposed of all but 1 tablespoon of the oil in the skillet, added 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and used the same skillet to cook the asparagus.

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