Growing up, most of my experiences eating pork chops were less than enjoyable. The chops were usually terribly overcooked and dry. This is a common issue with pork chops, as they are quite lean and easy to overcook. There is also a misconception that pork needs to be cooked super well-done in order to be safe to eat. This simply isn’t true. Pork is technically safe to eat at an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.
So you can begin by not cooking the hell out of your pork chops. That’s definitely a start, but how do you boost the flavor and juiciness even more? Brine your pork chops in a simple orange-infused brine, bread it with a mixture of well-seasoned breadcrumbs and panko, and cook it to a crisp in a hot skillet!
Chicken and steak are both common proteins used for a Milanese preparation, but these pounded-thin pork chops are an excellent alternative. Served with a balsamic and lemon-infused tomato sauce laced with a bit of heat, this brined pork Milanese is beautiful way to serve pork chips without drying them out.
They retain a juicy interior while boasting a crisp crust on the outside. This is definitely one of my new favorite ways to serve pork chops. Please note that the original recipe only called for 2 pork chops for serving 4, but there is easily enough brine and sauce to make 4 chops (or even more), so I’ve adjusted the recipe below.
You will likely still have extra sauce even with 4 pork chops. The leftover sauce would work well on pizza and even pasta. Mine was reminiscent of a silky marinara, smoother than if I had used canned plum tomatoes. Either texture is fine depending on your preference.
Brined Pork Milanese with Tomato-Balsamic Sauce
Makes 4 servings
(Adapted from Share)
Brine and Pork Chops:
2 cups water
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar (I used raw sugar)
1/4 cup kosher salt
Zest strips of 1/2 large orange, removed with a vegetable peeler
1 1/2 quarts ice water
4 boneless pork chops, each 8 ounces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed under a knife and peeled
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, coarsely crushed by hand (I use a can of tomato passata/puree because that’s what I had on hand)
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, preferably aged balsamic
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good quality dried breadcrumbs (you can also make your own by toasting up some fresh breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley (I didn’t have any on hand, so I omitted this)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
Vegetable oil, for frying
To brine the chops: Combine the water, sugar, salt, and orange zest in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar and salt. Transfer to a medium heatproof bowl, and stir in the ice water–the brine must be very cold.
Meanwhile, one at a time, place a pork chop between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound the chop with the flat side of a meat pounder until it is about 1/3-inch thick. Put the pork in a 1-gallon zippered plastic bag and pour in the brine. Seal the bag tightly, place in a bowl, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours, no longer.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Heat the oil and garlic together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the garlic is toasted to golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the garlic. Stir the hot pepper flakes into the oil. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices and the lemon zest. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 1 hour. During the last few minutes stir in the basil, oregano, balsamic vinegar, and sugar. Season to taste with salt as needed. The sauce can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat before serving.
To coat the pork chops: Remove the pork from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Spread the flour in a wide shallow bowl. Beat the eggs, salt, and pepper together in a second shallow bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs, panko, parsley, lemon zest, and hot pepper flakes in a third bowl. One at a time, coat the pork in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip on both sides in the egg mixture and coat evenly with the panko mixture, patting it in gently to adhere. Transfer to a platter. Let the pork stand for about 10 minutes to set the coating.
Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. Pour enough oil into a very large skillet to come 1/4-inch (I used less) up the sides and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the pork to the oil and cook, adjusting the heat so the pork bubbles steadily in the oil without browning too quickly, until the underside is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the pork over and brown the other side, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to the paper towels and drain briefly. Cut each pork chop crosswise into 1/2-inch strips (or serve them whole as I did). Transfer to a platter and serve immediately, with the tomato sauce on the side.