Making fried food at home terrifies me. It’s messy. It never turns out right (please refer back to the fried chicken post from a couple years ago). There’s always a lingering fear of fire. Yet I decided one day that I was going to make tonkatsu. The Professor loves ordering it at Japanese restaurants, particularly tonkatsu curry, and a half box of panko from a disasterous breaded artichoke heart recipe was rattling around my cupboard so I figured “Why not?”

Oishi desu yo

Oishi desu yo

The Internet informed the actual cutlet part. I engineered tonkatsu sauce based on my own flavor memory and what I had around. Rice is basmati, which might drive some purists to drink, but whatever. We like basmati. I’ve also perfected its preparation to the point where I can make it with a couple glasses of wine under my belt. That smaller “simmer” burner, initially loathed, helps immensely.

For the Chops, Get Thee:

4 thin center cut boneless pork chops (No more than 1/2 inch. Otherwise, you’ll have to pound it out and that’s vexing.)
1 cup white flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko
salt and pepper to taste
A great deal of vegetable oil (Enough to fill a large skillet to 2 inches depth.)

1) Lightly salt and pepper both sides of your pork chops. Let them rest for 5 minutes. Assemble flour, eggs, and panko in three separate bowls while you wait.
2) Add vegetable oil – 2 inches depth – to heavy bottomed skillet. Cast iron is highly recommended here. Turn heat to high and wait. Test the oil after a few minutes by throwing a crumb of panko in. If it immediately sizzles and floats to the top, you’re ready.
3) Dredge each chop in flour (shake off excess), then egg (let excess drip off), then panko. You will need to press the panko into the pork chops a bit. Only do as many as you can fit in the skillet at one time. Otherwise the panko will get soft and you’ll lose some of the crispy texture. Along the lines of compromised crispy texture, a crowded skillet doesn’t distribute heat properly. For my 10 inch cast iron, I can fry two chops per batch.
4) Fry chops in heated oil for three minutes on each side. They will turn a nice dark golden brown. When they’re ready, they will float a little. Remove from pan with slotted spoon to drain excess oil. Place on paper towel lined plate.
5) Repeat step #3 and #4 until all chops are done.
6) Slice into strips if you’re feeling generous or authentic. Serve with sauce (recipe below), rice, and cucumber salad (recipe below)

For Tonkatsu Sauce, Get Thee:

1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp plum sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sriracha
1 tbslp mirin or rice vinegar

Mix all this together in a bowl. Serve on the side or drizzle some on the tonkatsu before bringing it to table.

For Cucumber Salad, Get Thee:

1 English cucumber
1 tbsp mirin. You can also use rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar if you’re out.
1 tsp salt
smallest dash of sugar

1) Thinly slice cucumber into a bowl. English cucumbers don’t need to be peeled or seeded.
2) Add mirin, salt, sugar. Stir.
3) Let it sit for 20 minutes at room temperature.

For Those Who Swear They Can’t Make Rice Without a Rice Cooker:

Anyone can make rice. It does take a bit of finesse, experience, and practice though. For all our quinoa, millet, and brown rice health trends, America remains a wheat and tuber eating culture. Rice package directions are also frequently wrong. Recorded here is my perfected method for white basmati, stamped with the Professor’s seal of approval.

For two people, measure one cup of rice. Put it in a medium sized saucepan. Add cold water until covered. You should be able to see rice grains only at the highest part if they’ve collected unevenly. Swish it around with your hand a few times. Bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting and set your timer for 20 minutes. At this point, leave it the hell alone. Seriously. Don’t lift the lid. Don’t stir it. Don’t adjust the heat. Don’t do anything unless you smell burning popcorn. That’s your rice burning, so turn off the heat and let it sit to the end of 20 minutes. After 20, test for doneness. If it’s still a little crunchy, keep the heat going for another 5 minutes. Once ready, fluff with a fork and put the lid half on until ready to serve.

It’s really that easy. I haven’t scorched the bottom in almost a year.

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