Monday, February 20, 2012

Cracker Pork Chops and Onion Rice - A little taste of home

Mama's Cracker Pork Chops and Onion Rice

Growing up I don’t remember designated food nights with my parents such as Meatloaf Monday or Chicken Thursday. From what I recollect, in the morning my mom would see what was in the freezer and pull something out that she wanted to make... simple as that. There are a few staples that she made almost every night, but that’s for another time. I promise I’ll share soon... I have to tell you that my mom and grandmother are the inspiration for my love of food. So many happy memories of being in the kitchen with them, watching them create a plate of good food. The kitchen was the heart of our home. Everyone – me, my mom, aunts, and cousins would be chopping, mixing, stirring while the men my dad and uncles would usually be in front of the TV watching some sort of ballgame. The smells were divine, my cousins and I would be chomping at the bit to eat.

So, to this week’s entry... it’s dedicated to my Mom, who was a marvelous cook. Shirley Ann... This is for you.  Did I tell you she was a wonderful cook?  I swear I could taste the love she had for us in every bite.  My mom was raised on a farm in Missouri, although she was very glamorous and sophisticated. Her style of cooking was passed down by my grandmother Flora Bell. It was comfort food with style. Let me tell you Paula Deen has nothing on these women.

One of my most favorite meals my mom made for my dad and I was her Cracker Pork Chops and Onion Rice dishes. Simple, fairly easy to prepare and the result is fall off the bone goodness with a mixture of wondrous rice.   I have a friend that likes to give me grief about Mid-westerners' no knowing how to cook, that only people from New York know how to cook good food. I personally think he is wrong, but he is entitled to his own opinion.

To start with the pork chops the recipe is just a few simple ingredients, pork chops, chicken stock, eggs and saltine crackers. That’s is, of course with the addition of oil to cook, my mom always used canola oil, but now I tend to cook with Olive Oil.

I start with center cut bone-in pork chops. They have the right amount of fat to meat ratio and I think the marrow in the bone infuses that extra flavoring that boneless meats just can’t.  I think the cracker crust is the magic ingredient for this dish... I do a combination of fine and course cracker meal in the blender. As a side note, I have tried the salt-free version, but I find that it makes the dish a bit bland. The added plus, no additional salt!  Another secret to a successful and succulent pork chop is the browning process... you have to get a good brown crust on the meat. Dipping in the beaten egg first, then the cracker meal and finally in the medium-to-medium high heat. I find the cooking time is about 3 minutes on each side. Once you have browned all the chops, the next step is to place them in a Pyrex dish and pour about half of the can of chicken broth over the chops. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in 350° oven for about 40 minutes. Last ten minutes, pull the aluminum foil to reduce the broth for a bubbling deeper finish. 
Cracker Pork Chops:
4              Center Cut Pork Chops
2              Eggs – beaten
2 C.         Cracker Crumbs – blend of fine and course textures
1/2 to 2/3 C.       Chicken Stock or broth
2 T. Olive Oil

Dip chops in beaten eggs. Then cover with cracker crumbs, and brown until an umber color. Place browned pork chops in Pyrex dish and pour chicken stock over meat. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Last ten minutes, remove foil and finish. 

Okay, there’s the thing about this dish... The cooking process and the elementary ingredients make this dish incredibly tender; it just falls off the bone. It’s juicy, extremely tender and “Just that Good”! I can’t explain it, but with every bite, I am back at the dining room table with my mom and dad.

Alright, the other dish that makes this one memorable meal is the rice dish. There’s no real name for it, my mom always called it rice, I call it Onion Rice, only because there are four ingredients... cup of Jasmine Rice, one can of Campbell’s French Onion Soup, one can of Campbell’s Beef Consume and a tablespoon of butter. That’s it! These four ingredients build a side dish that is comforting, warming and deep with flavor. My mom use to use a whole stick of butter, but my husband suggested that I cut down to make it less oily. That’s not an enticing description I know, but honestly, you can’t have the pork chop dish without this rice dish. No other carb dish will suffice.  The dishes meld into a plate full of down-home comfort. The recipe is below.

Shirley’s Onion Rice
1 can      Campbell’s Beef Consume
1 C.         Jasmine Rice
1 T.         Butter
Combine ingredients in a cover dish. Stir once and bake at 350° for one hour - Told you it was simple!

Any vegetable will do, for this particular meal, I made broccoli with a pat of butter and squeeze of lemon. The citrus adds a little zest to the alluring meat and rice dish.

As a child, I drank ice milk with my dinner, but now that I’m “grown-up”, a nice glass of Chardonnay elevates this Midwestern meal to an elaborate dinner. I uncorked one of my new favorites, Seth Cripe’s Lola Chardonnay from Saint Helena, California. Seth is a friend of mine and I was excited to try his newest grape elixir.

I hope that you will try this dish with your family and friends. My wish is that this meal will become one of your favorites and staples as it is for me.  

As I always say, “It’s Just that Good”! - SRQ Foodie 

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