… in recent years of my life1
(c) 2017, Davd
Make breakfast the best meal of the day, is advice i have read and heard from several sources that seem to me to be nutritionally “savvy”. I do not always follow this advice strictly; my very best meals, like roast beef with fresh baked homemade bread, are usually dinners. Breakfast is not a meal to take hours preparing, so my breakfast standard combines quality with speed; the dinner standard can be more tolerant of long preparation time.
My usual breakfast these days, and for some years now, is a pork chop, fried in a minimum of fat, with chopped onion and oat porridge. Usually i have an apple, or half of a really big apple, as the fruit, and some coffee. The technique is fairly easy to learn, “man food” that is hearty and enjoyable day after day. Most men who read this, i forecast, will like this “usual breakfast” better than something sweeter, and find it gets you going for a day’s work.
When i was a boy, a popular children’s radio show defined a good breakfast as “Fruit, cereal, milk, bread, and butter.” That formula is much better than coffee or tea and pastry; but it’s long on grain and today, many experts still discourage eating large amounts of saturated fats. What’s more, milk allergies and prohibitions are commoner now than then2.
Jet-lag research which came out years after my childhood ended, recommended a high protein breakfast, and while it was more for vegetarians than meat eaters, the famous book Diet for a Small Planet, made the concept of “protein completeness”, the availability of protein in food for body building and repair, widely known.
Neither meat nor grain [nor milk] offers complete protein, “which means” that not all the protein in a portion of meat, grain, or milk, can be used by the body as protein to grow and repair muscle, skin, and all the other “body tissues”. Combining proteins from two different sources—grain and meat, grain and pulses, potatoes and cheese, etc., etc., etc., etc. can make the protein in both, more valuable.
Meat and grain eaten together “balance each other” better than meat and potatoes; potatoes balance better with dairy—milk and cheeses, mainly—than they do with meat. Eat a pork chop with about twice its volume in oat porridge, barley pilaf, or bread, and you’ll get more of the protein for building and maintaining your body than if you had the pork chop with potatoes and the grain with eggs.
I’ve had pork chops for breakfast more than any other meat, the past few years, because i haven’t been catching trout, or fish that size, and beef has been a good deal more expensive. Steak for breakfast is mighty good; pork chops cost about half as much on special, and in my ‘umble opinion, go better with oat porridge3.
To repeat, this is not the only high quality “usual breakfast” i can name: Fried trout or codfish with potatoes is another i often ate when i lived near the Pacific. This pork chop and porridge combination is probably the most available, at a relatively low cost, across Canada [and the US, i expect].
The best way i’ve found to stock my freezer with [future] pork chops, is to buy half or whole boneless pork loin at about $2 per pound. I cut the chops in my kitchen, and have done for years. Pork chops, i believe, fry best if they are about 2 cm [¾ inch] thick. (Like beefsteak, they can benefit from being thicker if grilled over a wood fire.)
As my recent steak blog detailed, cutting steaks and chops from frozen roast sized and larger pieces calls for a serious, rather heavy chef’s knife, a good cutting board, and meat that’s not frozen but very cold, so its texture is stiff and parallel cuts are relatively easy to make. Since the technique is described there, i’ll let you go to that previous blog if you aren’t familiar with it.
Even a half pork loin yields more chops than one man will eat in a week; and when i cut them, the meat is half frozen; so i typically keep 3-8 chops in the fridge proper, and put the others back in the freezer4.
Cooking for myself, i use a stainless steel or cast-iron frying pan that will hold one chop and twice its volume in porridge, with a little room to spare; and that has a well fitting lid—my lids are both stainless steel. Even if the pan is stainless steel rather than cast iron—I season it with fat, (preferably pork fat, but cooking oil will do5.) It can be put away seasoned in the drawer that most stoves have near floor level, underneath the oven.
Come morning, i take out that frying pan, put it on a stove element that it can completely cover but with only a little overhang on all sides; and heat it to sizzling—to where a bit of meat or fat put in it will sizzle right away. That’s when i add the pork chop, meat edge first, and then when the meat edge has seared, i lay it flat to sear one side. (Searing holds in the moisture in the meat, so it cooks but doesn’t dry out.)
While the first side of the chop is searing, or before, i chop enough onion to make about one teaspoonful. (You may decide you want more or less onion for your own liking.) I also get the water boiling for the porridge, unless i have porridge waiting in the fridge.
Rolled oat [or rye] porridge is made from two volumes of water and one of grain. I measure my oats with a big coffee mug, and pour the dry rolled oats into a clean bowl. Then i measure two fills of the same mug, of water, into the cooking pot where i make the porridge, and get that water on the stove—high heat, if electric, hot spot, if on a woodstove.
The mug has now been rinsed and can be turned upside down in the dish rack, to dry. It never really got dirty.
When the meat has been seared on one side—which doesn’t take long—turn it over, add the onion to the pan, and drop the heat to low. On one of those cute glass top stoves, i turn the power right off; the stove top holds enough heat to sear the second side and usually, cook the chop “well done.”
When the porridge water begins to boil (let it reach “a rolling boil”) the oats should be added gradually, stirring as they pour into the water. The heat should stay high just until the water-oats mixture is definitely boiling, and then dropped to a setting [or the pot moved to a part of the woodstove top] where it will continue to boil gently.
Check how the meat and onions are cooking—they should be OK—and then stir the porridge briefly. You’ll probably want coffee with breakfast, so any waiting time that comes next can be spent making coffee (if you haven’t done that already) getting out an apple, or tidying the kitchen. Stir the porridge a few times when you have a few idle seconds, until you see it’s ready.
Porridge cooks quickly. Soon, it will be ready, and the pork chop should be ready about the same time. You can cut through it to be sure there’s no bright pink or red meat inside—pork should be cooked “well done”—and then add twice the volume of porridge, as there is of pork. A little more than twice is OK… the idea is to have pork and onion flavour in that porridge rather than sugar and milk.
Spiced apple porridge also goes well with pork chops, if you want a change of taste, don’t like onions much, or have apples in cooked or frozen form but not fresh. I usually make plain porridge, adding onion to the frying pan, and have a fresh apple (or half of a really big one6.)
There it is: Pork chop, porridge flavoured by the meat and some onion, and i suggest, an apple and some coffee. Heartier and more nourishing than most breakfasts, a meal you can eat daily for weeks without getting bored, and economical.
Castleman, Michael, 1991. The Healing Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press.
Lappé, Frances Moore, 1975. Diet for a Small Planet, 2nd ed. NY: Ballantine.
1. I eat pork, as do most agnostics, atheists, Christians, and adherents to several smaller ‘religions’. Jews and Muslims abstain from pork, and many Buddhists abstain from meat, as [i have read on a monastery website] do Orthodox monks. Looking at how much pork is offered for sale in ordinary Canadian food stores, i’ll guess that a large majority of Canadians eat pork. This technique, plainly, is for those of us who do.
2. Personally, i can’t follow the formula because i take a thyroid supplement whose directions forbid me to have milk within four hours after the pill. One of my sons is lactose intolerant. He and i can both eat pork chops.
3. If you have an economical source of steak or trout or salmon, i recommend rye porridge with them, or barley pilaf, or whole wheat bread, even pasta. I do eat beef, and salmon—but usually for dinner, not breakfast.
4. Often i buy these pork loins frozen; nearly always, they come already wrapped by the meat packing firm in heavier, stronger plastic than that of which “food bags” are made. Cooking and eating mostly ‘alone’, i often take a pork loin, cut the heavy wrapping at the middle of its length, and work back the plastic far enough to cut 3-4 chops. Then when the chops have been cut from that half of the loin, i pull the plastic back over the remaining meat of that end, and fold it tight against my last cut. I put the still half-frozen pork in the freezer section of the refrigerator, with the folded plastic against a wall or held down by something small. Result: About one third of the original pork loin, never thawed, is back in freezer storage waiting to be cut when the centre chops have been eaten.I then repeat that cut chops, fold plastic, and put back process with the other half… so about two thirds of a whole pork loin, is back waiting to be cut into chops later.
There is nothing wrong with cutting the whole loin into chops and freezing most of them; but the heavy food-grade plastic in which the loins are sold seems to me to be the best plastic wrapping in which to hold the meat until i am ready to thaw it for cooking.
5. Pork fat can be used to season pans for frying beef; bacon fat for frying beef or chicken, and for some kinds of fish. The reverse doesn’t work: Don’t fry pork or chicken in beef fat, nor beef or pork in chicken fat.
6. To hold the other half of an apple, cut the apple straight across, as nearly as you can. Choose the side whose face is “dished in” rather than bulging out, and lay it on a big jar lid, or a small plate. You can put it in the fridge for the next morning, or have it later in the day.
I read in a Rodale Press book, (Castleman, 1991) that apples help keep saturated fats from clogging your arteries.