Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Search for Gluten Free Bread Crumbs

As most of you who live in Upstate NY know, when we're not enduring torrential downpours this summer has been unseasonably cold. With temperatures in the low 70s these days (yes, I know it's Upstate NY and to stop complaining), and a buy one get one free sale on pork chops at our local Price Chopper, I decided to bake some comfort food this week.

Now, one of the big challenges to gluten free comfort foods was finding good bread crumbs. Let's face it, a girl just doesn't have the time to always make bread crumbs and it's really convenient to have a trusted brand on hand. My mother taught me to always use 4C Italian bread crumbs, and those worked well for years - chicken parmesan, baked chicken, pork chops, fish, you name it and these breadcrumbs did the job. Thus began the hunt for decent, gluten free bread crumbs.

Well, the first type of bread crumbs that I picked up, the first week we went shopping in the gluten free section of our local grocery store, was Orgran's all purpose bread crumbs made from rice flour. And I have to say, don't bother! These "bread crumbs" had the look and consistency of coarsely ground white rice flour. What was the point? I wanted bread crumbs for texture, not a flour coating on my baked chicken. Plus they were completely flavorless and no matter how many spices I mixed in, they always seemed to absorb all flavor. Next!

A couple months later brought me to Hannaford, where I found Gillian's bread crumbs. They came in a clear plastic container and I could see they actually looked like real bread crumbs, and as a bonus Gillian's makes Italian seasoned bread crumbs!

I brought home Gillian's bread crumbs and tried them right away and I have to say - they got the taste of real bread crumbs down perfectly. My only complaint is the texture in some dishes - you absolutely can't beat Gillian's bread crumbs for chicken parmesan or anything that you want to be a little on the crunchy side, but if you want soft, breaded baked goods then there's something... missing. I'm happy to stock Gillian's bread crumbs in my pantry and I've passed the word on to my mother to do the same when she bakes for Vince, but I still wanted to find a good, soft coating.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I came across HOL-GRAIN chicken coating mix. The canister says that it's great for chicken, pork, fish and vegetables, so I picked up a package to try it out. The mix was very fine, and there were already some seasonings. I coated my pork chops in egg whites and the chicken coating mix, then topped them with extra garlic powder, onion powder, and a liberal amount of seasoned salt. In a glass pyrex baking dish (incidentally a shower gift from my gal pal Sam, and a daily reminder of my previous pyrex baking dish that I kind of, sort of, exploded - a story for another time) sprayed with PAM, I baked the pork chops at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

The pork chops came out perfect - soft, tender and juicy. Honestly, you couldn't tell the coating was gluten free. I'd definitely recommend doctoring the coating mix with additional spices but this coating mix is definitely a winner for baked pork chops and baked chicken.

The best part about baking gluten-free comfort food? It goes so well with naturally gluten-free comfort food - mashed potatoes (made with loads of real butter, 2% milk and garlic), peas, and easy-as-pie sauteed cinnamon apples (coming in my next post) made the meal perfect.

It's hard to believe it's still August!

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