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Pork cutlet recipe at lynnecurry.com.

Craving the Crispiest Pork Cutlet? Make Tonkatsu

As a whole food blogger, I don’t often write about deep-fried foods. I mean, I love them as much as anyone. I can hardly resist the sweet potato fries, fish and chips and poppers at my local eateries.

Still, it’s a special occasion when I do pour the oil deep enough for frying into a pan and start the breading process.

And yes, it is a process. But one that is completely worth every messy step along the way.

I’ve experimented with shortcut breading methods for oven baked chicken fingers by dipping them in yogurt and sour cream before the breadcrumbs. Honestly, it works pretty well.

But when you really want the full deep-fried experience, nothing replaces the three-step breading procedure.{This very short video is solid.}

Pork cutlet recipe at lynnecurry.com.

Dry Hand/Wet Hand

Learn this simple mantra and you’ll take control without ever breading your fingers again. {Haven’t we all done that?} And while you can certainly use tongs, I find that the best utensils for this project found in any kitchen are at the ends of my arms.

{Of course, some food service gloves are not a bad idea here, and I keep some on hand just for mixing meatballs or meatloaf and other crazy cooking messes.}

Use your dominant hand for the dry ingredients. That’s the flour in step 1 and the bread crumbs in step 3. Use your opposite hand for the wet egg in step 2. It works like this:

Flour, egg, breadcrumbs: dry hand, wet hand, dry hand. Repeat this procedure–even saying this out loud or in your head to keep track–for breading any number of items from jalapenos for homemade poppers to deep-fried pickles to chicken tenders to deep-fried soft boiled eggs. {The eggs are an amazing topping to a hearty salad.}

Learn it like “rinse, lather and repeat” and this recipe is within your command.

The Pork Cutlet Called Tonkatsu

At a moment when there is a lot of conversation about cultural appropriation, this pork cutlet called tonkatsu offers a prime example of cultural diffusion.

The difference, in the words of historian Michael Twitty, is that cultural diffusion is “a natural process when people of multiple different cultures live close together in some environment and can’t help but rub off on one another. No fault, no shame.”

Pork cutlet recipe at lynnecurry.com.

Tonkatsu, which means pork cutlet, came to be when Japan was opening up to western influences in the early part of the 20th century. Restaurants in Tokyo adopted the European fried meat cutlet {“cutlet” pronounced in Japanese was “katsuretsu,” which was shortened to katsu} and prepared it with beef, then pork and ground meats as well. And along the way they really made it their own.

The result is, in the view of many, the supreme representation of the crispiest and most addictive meat cutlet anywhere. And Japanese restaurants have made tonkatsu a comfort food standard.

It beats out chicken strips any day, in my book. And all you have to do is learn how to bread a few pieces of pork. Well, then there’s the question of the essential sweet, sour and very savory sauce.

The Dipping Sauce Choice

Now, there are devotees to tonkatsu sauce, bottled and homemade. I’ve made a few variations like this tonkatsu sauce recipe that principally call for ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.

Everyone has their own preferences, some of them very strong. I’m less of a purist.

Pork cutlet recipe at lynnecurry.com.

On the most recent tonkatsu occasion in our house, I had some barbecue sauce on hand, which has some of those same flavor elements.

I fried up a batch of pork cutlets, sliced them into strips and served them with a side of steamed rice and cucumber spears {raw shredded cabbage is a the more common tonkatsu accompaniment} and bowls of barbecue sauce for dipping.

It was one of those scattered evenings when all four of us were in the house doing our own thing. But these crispy cutlets–and rounded out with the rice–made for an irresistible meal that beckoned everyone to the table before I even called them for dinner.

I hope that you are ringing in the season with good comfort food suppers for you and yours.

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Crispy Pork Cutlet

There is no substitute for the classic breading method for making crispy cutlets like this tonkatsu. When buying pork chops, look for the sirloin chop, which is rosier in color and fries into a moister cutlet. Or substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs. With steamed rice and a simple vegetable side this makes a wonderful dinner accompanied by your favorite dipping sauce.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Japanese
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 28 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Lynne Curry

Ingredients

  • 4 1-inch thick boneless pork chops, preferably sirloin chops or boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • fine sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 2/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • dipping sauce of your choice, such as tonkatsu or barbecue sauce

Instructions

  1. Place the pork chops between two large pieces of plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound them to an even 1/2-inch thick. Season the chops with salt and pepper.

  2. Combine the flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a wide mixing bowl. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water in another wide bowl and place the breadcrumbs into yet another bowl. Place a rack on top of a baking sheet.

  3. Working with one chop at a time, dip it into the flour and coat it thoroughly using your "dry" hand. Shake off the excess and drop it into the egg mixture with your dry hand. Using your opposite hand, which is now your "wet" hand, coat the chop completely in the egg mixture. Lift it to let the excess drip off and drop it into the breadcrumbs. Switching back to your dry hand, press the chop into the breadcrumbs to coat it densely on both sides and the edges in the breadcrumbs. Transfer to the rack. Repeat with the remaining chops, continuing to use your dry hand for the flour and breadcrumbs and your wet hand for the egg. Wash your hands thoroughly before proceeding with the recipe. (You can bread the meat up to 1 day in advance and place it in the refrigerator until ready to fry.)

  4. To fry, pour enough oil into your largest skillet to reach a depth of about 1 1/2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil is hot enough to sizzle when you sprinkle a few stray breadcrumbs into the pan, which will register about 350 degrees F on an deep-fry thermometer. 

  5. Slip one chop into the oil at a time to make sure that each chop has room enough to fry freely in the oil. You may have room for all 4 chops, but if it looks crowded, hold back and do a second back.

  6. Fry until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Use tongs to flip the chops and fry the second side until evenly golden brown, about 3 minutes more. Transfer the cooked chops back to the rack to drain and fry the next batch, if necessary. You can keep the fried chops warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

  7. To serve, transfer the chops to a cutting board and slice at an angle into strips before serving with your favorite dipping sauce.

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