Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!  I hope that you are feeling the love today- from your friends, from your family, or from your honey.  I love love…so I especially enjoy a day that is all about celebrating love! 

This photo shows last year’s Valentine’s Day dinner.  A juicy, red steak, a simple arugula salad and roasted zucchini with tomatoes.  And a couple of Bell’s Two Hearted Ales.  : )  You don’t have to go out and spend a ton of money to have a romantic, festive dinner with the one you love.  I hope you are wearing red and smiling a lot today…

Now, time to share a little love with you.  Thursday was my friend Suzanne’s birthday.  And one her favorite recipes of mine is a Crispy Parmesan Crusted Pork Chop.  On her special day, I was craving something crispy and cheesy that I could really dig my teeth into.  To be honest, I crave crispy and cheesy most days- but some days I have more restraint than others.  Adam and I generally plan out our menu for six out of seven days, because you never know when you’re going to need a “Free Space” to feed your hankerin’!  So, when my brilliant, very tuned in to me, husband suggested Parmesan Pork Chops, I knew I had married the right man.  

This is a recipe that was originally adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Crunchy Pork Chops.  She is a beautiful British bombshell, who is a writer and a lover of food and cooking.  I realize now, looking back, that her version is simpler than mine- I guess I just sort of dialed up the flavor and stuck with it over the years.  These pork chops have been a staple in our house for quite a long time, and I’ve shared them with friends and clients alike.  It’s kind of a throw back to the breaded chicken cutlets my mama used to make midweek, but bone-in pork chops offer more flavor and that rare opportunity to use your teeth as they are truly intended to be used.  This dish doesn’t involve many ingredients, it’s super simple to make, and is quick cooking.  And it kicks Shake and Bake’s butt.

We decided to pair the chops with broccolini and a roasted parsnip puree.  Like I’ve said before, we are always experimenting in the kitchen, and this was our fist shot with parsnips.  I wanted a creamy puree made from a lovely winter vegetable to contrast the crunch of our pork chops.  I did some research, peeled and chopped my parsnips, much like I would carrots, and prepared them for roasting along with a few cloves of garlic.

Then, we got our breading station ready.

We had some homemade breadcrumbs (but you can totally use Panko breadcrumbs from the store) that I combined with almost an equal amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

I added paprika, dried parsley, and salt and pepper to provide flavor to the breading.

The wet dunking mixture consists of one egg, a little mustard, hot sauce, and salt and pepper. 

Time for breading! 

All I did was dunk each chop into the egg mixture and then into the cheesy breadcrumbs.  I pressed the breading into each pork chop to ensure a nice even crust.

Next, it was time to heat a pan with a little olive oil to cook the pork chops and boil some water for the broccolini. 

I love broccolini.  It is actually a cross between broccoli and Gai Lan, or Chinese broccoli.  The stems are much more tender than on a regular stalk of broccoli and the florets are very sweet.  I treat them like asparagus in that I like to cook them in a bit of boiling water just until they slide right off my fork when I stab them.  It only takes a couple minutes.  

That was about the time when the parsnips experienced a tragic turn for the worse.  Although we had checked them twice and turned them, when we look a third time, we were facing a parsnip situation.  Sadly, the parsnips got scalded on one side…I was sorely disappointed, and there was no way I was pureeing those ruined parsnips.  Did I cry?  No!  Did I freeze?  No!  Did I throw in the towel?  Nope.  I thought about what I had in my pantry that would cook up in time and serve as a solid side for these chops.  I grabbed the quinoa and made quick work of it.  Switcheroo!

Phew.  All is well in the world of side dishes.  We’ll have to try parsnips again on another day.  Hey- you can’t win ‘em all, right?  And you have to be flexible in the kitchen.  I find that if I become too married to an idea, I am not able to bounce back as easily if something doesn’t go quite as I planned it.  I am comfortable in my kitchen, so when my plan goes awry, I am ready and able to switch it up.  No worries.  If I hadn’t found a grain I could quickly employ, we really would have survived without anything starchy at all.  Really.  Crisis averted.

Last but not least, we cooked up those thin pork chops.

They don’t require a lot of oil or a lot of time, but they cook up as if they have been fried to perfection.

Oh yes.  This time, I think the picture actually does convey the crispy, crunchy goodness that steals the show every time.  Every bite of pork started with a fabulous crunch and gave way to a tender, juicy, flavorful morsel.  The sweet broccolini was a beautiful pairing, seasoned only with a light drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  The quinoa saved the day and had a perfectly light airiness about it.  I added some of the roasted garlic to that pot along with scallions, and it just tasted yummy. 

Delicious!  This is a great go-to meal when you are craving a little crispy crunchiness and you don’t want to give in to the fried chicken and french fries.  Or tater tots.  Or country fried steak with gravy.  Or jalapeno poppers.  Or cheese sticks…Obviously, I could go on and on.  If you are lactose intolerant, you could skip the cheese entirely, and it would still work out beautifully.

Adam commented that the seasoning on the chops was perfect.  Yay!  Go bold with your seasonings, and do not be afraid!  It’s wonderful to sit down to a meal that doesn’t require the salt and pepper shakers at all.  Of course, you don’t want to over-salt, and you need to be mindful that each ingredient brings its own gusto.  Knowing I had cheese in the breading, I went lighter with the salt there.  I also added paprika and parsley, which bring flavor without sodium.  Citrus and fresh herbs are wonderful ways to impart flavor without sodium or fat as well.  Thoughtfully layering of flavor along the way is the key to food that lovingly commands respect.

Go out there and hug somebody today!  Enjoy all things red, pink, purple, and sweet.  Treat yourself to a lovely night out or stay in and cook up a feast full of love. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!




Sending love to all of you!

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