A hallmark ofNew Orleanscuisine is the mingling of cultural influences that make the city’s most well-known dishes. Among them, how to pan fry pork chops into the humble paneed pork marries the techniques of Milanese dishes from the city’s Italian immigrant communities with a Creole flavor profile.
“It’s the kind of dish that’s prevalent in family celebrations, and it’s on Creole Italian menus all over town,” says chef Jason Goodenough, a New York transplant who’s made New Orleans his home for more than a decade.
After closing his beloved Carrollton Market restaurant during the pandemic, Goodenough started an innovative culinary immersion program,the New Culinarian(TNC), for home cooks to explore New Orleans cuisine at the elbow of a renowned chef. The four-day experience is split between a professional kitchen in the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute and a selection of restaurants that Goodenough feels best encapsulate the city’s old-school and modern culinary scene.
To develop the perfect paneed pork recipe, Goodenough first thought of the many paneed pork dishes he’d eaten in New Orleans. More specifically, what he disliked about them. The biggest problem was how to pan fry pork chops without drying out the pork. The optional brine in this recipe helps avoid it. The brine here is optional, but it’s a sure-fire way to avoid the common pitfall of dried-out pork. It also helps address Goodenough’s next troubleshooting topic: seasoning.
“I thought a lot about what step in the process to season the pork. Do you season the flour? Breadcrumbs?” As a result, he crafted a strong brine that imparts salt in a short amount of time. If the pork chops sit in the brine longer than two hours or so, you run the risk that they’ll become too salty. (Read: definitely don’t leave them brining overnight.) If you decide to skip the brine altogether, Goodenough suggests sprinkling the pork with salt directly after pounding it out, rather than seasoning the flour, for more control over the seasoning process.
The other key in how to pan fry pork chops, Goodenough says, is the oil temperature. If fried at the right temperature, the finished pork chops won’t be greasy, just perfectly golden and crispy. Rather than going by a particular degree on a thermometer, the chef notes a fool-proof method to determine if your oil is at the sweet spot: Sprinkle a couple of breadcrumbs in and see how they react. If they immediately, vigorously sizzle, your oil is ready. Don’t be afraid to adjust on the fly, he says.
“If you put the pork in and it doesn’t sizzle, just take it back out and wait! You don’t have to fully commit,” he says. On the contrary, if it’s too hot and begins to smoke, try adding room-temperature oil to bring it down quickly, rather than waiting for the temperature to lower on its own.
Finally, if you’ve seasoned properly and fried them just right, don’t ruin your hard work in the final step. “The importance of the wire rack hadn’t stood out to me until recently,” Goodenough says. Allowing air to circulate around the pork chops, rather than resting them on a paper towel to drain excess oil, keeps moisture from forming on the bottom and maintains crispiness on both sides. “Now, whenever I fry things, pan fry, even bake cookies, I break out the wire rack.”
Goodenough serves his paneed pork with spaghetti aglio e olio and roasted asparagus tossed in olive oil, salt, and lemon juice but emphasizes that the homey, rustic dish is a versatile base that can go with almost anything.
Note: One of Goodenough's favorite kitchen tricks is blending panko breadcrumbs in a high-speed blender like Vitamix until they're the texture of flour. The result is an impossibly light and delicate coating that doesn't overpower the star of the dish.