14 April 2011

Our happy hour

If you've spent any time around here, you know that I've been a bit frugal lately. I'm trying to limit my weekly grocery bills for the month of April to $25 a week, which I blew last week by $10.

The first week was stressful. It seemed like every day I was reaching for something from the pantry that I just didn't have. This week, however, has been a bit more sane. That is to say we've eaten well. I'll reserve the judgment on our sanity for those who care to visit.

These Pork Fingers were a dish I came up with when I found myself with pork chops in the freezer when I was craving chicken fingers. So, off I went on a chicken finger crusade with the Other White Meat. There are plenty of times when I start cooking with a craving and the wrong ingredients that simply turn into sub-par dinnertime disasters. This, however, was (thankfully) not one of those times. It's become part of our steady rotation.

I love this meal. It's kid food that feels dolled up just enough to take to a happy hour menu. But since we won't be ordering $2 pints and sliders any time too soon, this is a hearty consolation.

Pork Fingers

2 thick-cut pork chops
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups bread crumbs (see note)
1 cup all purpose flour
3+ tablespoons butter, melted
Salt and pepper

If the pork chops are more than an inch and a half thick, cut them in half, crosswise, so that you end up with two mirror-image portions from each chop. Lay out plastic wrap on a baking sheet and place all four chops on the wrap and cover with another sheet of wrap. Using a rolling pin or some other non-breakable, heavy object, pound the heck out of your meat, the goal being to increase your surface area by at least half or so.

Next, cut each chop into strips, roughly three-quarters of an inch wide. Toss the strips along with the buttermilk in an airtight container and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the pork chops from the buttermilk and place in a strainer; reserve the buttermilk and place in a medium bowl. Set aside. Season the flour with salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside. Put the bread crumbs in another medium bowl. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with foil (for easy clean up) and place a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet. Set aside. Line up, in this order, the strainer full of pork, the bowl of flour, the reserved buttermilk, the bread crumbs and the baking sheet.

Working in batches, lightly coat the pork strips in flour and then place them in the buttermilk. Next, dredge the in the bread crumbs and then place them on the wire cooling rack. Repeat until all strips are positioned on the rack. Drizzle melted butter over the strips and bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until meat is done throughout and breading is golden.

Note: If you've got a food processor, making your own bread crumbs is simple, and the taste is so much better than the store-bought stuff. Here's how: Save your bread heels and leftover stale slices and let them hand out on the counter, uncovered overnight (or pop them in a low oven or toaster to dry them out quickly). Then, pulse in the food processor until crumbs form. I keep a zip-top bag full of bread crumbs in my freezer for use anytime.

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