Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

I found this recipe from smitten kitchen, which is the first food blog I've ever followed. It's a beautiful blog full of lovely photos and yummy recipes. The photos are almost as gorgeous as this site...which is basically the equivalent of food porn in which people like me go a little OCD. WARNING...If you like photography and love to cook, do not click on that's addicting!!!

I'm realizing the older I get, the more I enjoy pork. I used to think pork was just fatty bacon and never heard of it referred to as the "other" white meat. When cooked properly it has a hint of sweetness and it's VERY delicious. When I say properly, I mean when it's not bone dry. I'm telling you...instant read-thermometer is a wanna-be chef's best friend. You'll NEVER have over-cooked meat ever again!!!

This is a very simple recipe that comes together in a flash. If you're really in a rush, I don't think brining the pork is necessary. I've made pork chops plenty of times and this is the first time I've ever brined them. Honestly, I didn't see too much of a difference although I did find the pork to be a little more salty when brining them. However, that could have been from the fact that I didn't use the dijon mustard called for in the recipe which would have given a nice tangy contrast to the saltiness perhaps. Anyway, this recipe is very good and I served it with simple roasted potatoes.

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 4

CI notes: This recipe was developed using natural pork, but enhanced pork (injected with a salt solution) will work as well. If using enhanced pork, eliminate the brining in step 1. The bread crumb mixture can be prepared through step 2 up to 3 days in advance. The breaded chops can be frozen for up to 1 week. They don’t need to be thawed before baking; simply increase the cooking time in step 5 to 35 to 40 minutes.

Table salt
4 boneless center-cut pork chops
6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Lemon wedges

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 1 quart water in medium container or gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. Submerge chops, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Rinse chops under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer crumbs to rimmed baking sheet and add shallot, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss until crumbs are evenly coated with oil. Bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. (Do not turn off oven.) Cool to room temperature. Toss crumbs with Parmesan, thyme, and parsley.
3. Place 1/4 cup flour in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk egg whites and mustard until combined; add remaining 6 tablespoons flour and whisk until almost smooth, with pea-sized lumps remaining.
4. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Season chops with pepper. Dredge 1 pork chop in flour; shake off excess. Using tongs, coat with egg mixture; let excess drip off. Coat all sides of chop with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to chop. Transfer breaded chop to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 chops.
5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 150 degrees, 17 to 25 minutes. Let rest on rack 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.

**I cooked mine on a cooling rack so they would get extra crispy and crunchy on both sides. Sometimes when you cook them directly on a baking sheet the bottom side gets soggy.