Let pork chops dance with a new dinner partner

Gretchen McKay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

How did you eat pork chops growing up? If you’re of a certain age, I’ll bet it was with a side of applesauce or maybe homemade mashed potatoes.

Both pair perfectly with pork, so I’m not throwing shade on mom or grandma.

But since it’s spring, when fresh greens such as arugula and baby spinach are widely available, why not substitute a simple salad dressed in a zesty, lemony vinaigrette?

Sheela Prakash’s latest cookbook, “Salad Seasons: Vegetable-Forward Dishes All Year,” has one such recipe. Only instead of making it with lemon juice, vinegar and mustard, Kitchn’s senior contributing editor uses the entire lemon — rind, pulp, juice and all.

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“Might sound nothing short of crazy,” she writes in the headnotes, “but it’s no-waste brilliance at its best.”

When mixed with honey, toasted almonds and a generous glug of olive oil, lemon’s vibrant peel, bitter pith and lip-puckering flesh “make for a complex vinaigrette that’s unlike anything you’ve had before.”

She’s right.

The bright and cheerful dressing is both tangy and floral, with only an edge of bitterness.

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Prakash used the lemon vinaigrette to dress an arugula salad in her book, but I substituted an arugula-baby spinach mix.

I served it with bone-in, panko-fried pork chops.

Organic lemons are a good idea if you can find them, since you’re using the entire lemon (except the seeds) in the recipe.

In addition to dressing any and all greens, this vinaigrette is wonderful for drizzling on grilled or roasted meats or fish, spooning over roasted vegetables and as a dipping sauce for shrimp. It keeps in the fridge for about a week.

Fried panko-breaded pork chops are paired with an arugula salad dressed in a bright and zesty whole-lemon vinaigrette. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Crispy Pork Chops With Arugula Salad

For salad

  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds, divided
  • 1 small organic lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey, or more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 ounces packed arugula-baby spinach mix (about 4 cups)

For pork chops

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup panko or dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano and/or sage or 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • Generous pinch kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 41/2-inch-thick, center-cut, bone-in pork loin chops
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying

Prepare salad dressing: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast in oven, stirring halfway through, until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Trim the stem end off the lemon, cut into quarters and remove any seeds. Transfer to a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse until roughly chopped. Take a peek to see if you missed any seeds, and remove any with a spoon.

Add half of the almonds, the garlic, honey, a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper. Pulse until the lemon and almonds are finely chopped, scraping down sides of the food processor as needed, about 30 pulses.

Transfer lemon and almond mixture to an airtight container or jar. Add olive oil, seal the jar and shake to combine and emulsify. Set aside while you prepare pork chops. (My lemon was on the large side so I added a bit more salt and pepper to taste, along with a touch more honey and additional olive oil)

Crack egg into a shallow bowl and lightly beat with a fork or whisk. In another shallow bowl, toss bread crumbs with Parmesan, oregano and/or sage, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Pat pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper.

Dip chops in the beaten egg and press them into the seasoned bread crumbs to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until shimmering over moderate heat. Add chops and fry, turning every once in a while, until golden brown and crispy, and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Keep warm while you dress the salad.

Place arugula in a large salad bowl, drizzle with half the lemon vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and add more vinaigrette, a spoonful at a time, to taste. Garnish with remaining toasted almonds.

Place pork chops on a serving dish and serve with salad. Serves 4.

— Adapted from “Salad Seasons: Vegetable-Forward Dishes All Year” by Sheela Prakash (Rizzoli, $37.50)