Fried Pork Chops And Bay Laurel Gravy – The Saltwater Table by Whitney Otawka, Cookbook Review

fried pork recipe from The Saltwater Table

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I was sent a copy of The Saltwater Table by Whitney Otawka at no charge as part of The Abrams Dinner Party 2019/2020. All opinions are my own. But damn, this was the best fried pork recipe I have had in a long while!

The Saltwater Table

About The Saltwater Table:

A culinary travel fantasy, celebrating the food of the Southeastern coast 

Whitney Otawka is the award-winning chef of Greyfield, a celebrated Carnegie-built inn located on Cumberland Island, Georgia—a magical and remote barrier island that has been left undeveloped as a National Seashore. Cumberland Island and the exceptional local ingredients to be found there are Otawka’s muse, inspiring her to celebrate the beloved food found along the Southeast coast. Offering a modern perspective on southern flavors with a strong emphasis on vegetables and fresh ingredients, the book contains 125 approachable and flavorful recipes, such as summer tomatoes topped with crispy okra, flakey buttermilk biscuits with ginger-spiked jam, and sweet Atlantic shrimp poached with beer, citrus, and bay leaves. This beautifully photographed book also shows us how to enjoy iconic southern meals, everything from an oyster roast, to a fish fry, to a Low Country boil. The Saltwater Table transports readers to the mysterious, lush Cumberland Island, allowing us to recreate a taste of this vibrant world in our own kitchens.


About the Author:

Whitney Otawka is the chef of Greyfield Inn, on Cumberland Island, Georgia. She previously worked as a sous chef at Hugh Acheson’s 5&10 and has held stages at Per Se, Le Bernadin, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Otawka appeared on season nine of Top Chef.

My Opinion:

This is a cookbook that celebrates the cooking and cuisine of the coastal South, Georgia in particular. I will note that growing up at the Jersey shore the flow of the “seasons” and the seafood recipes were familiar in a lot of ways. One of the things I miss most since moving to Montana is the ability to get right off the boat seafood. If you have never had it, you don’t know what you are missing. And if you can ever get shrimp with their heads still on – take them and run.

The Saltwater Table is a book that respects fresh ingredients, in their time. Take advantage of what is fresh and seasonal rather than try to make a hothouse tomato taste like summer – ya know? I chose to make what would be considered a winter recipe but I had pork out for dinner and so pork I made. And I am so glad I did – this was the best fried pork I have had in a very long time. The spice blend in the dredge and the bay laurel gravy is a magical combination. I found the recipes to be well written and easy to follow. Of the ones that I read I didn’t note any wild and crazy ingredients.

Reading the book and looking through the recipes brought back a lot of memories for me of the time we spent in our fifthwheel. Part of our travels involved spending Christmas in Georgia with friends after being in New Jersey for the Fall. We would meander so each year we would spend time going a different way so as to see different places. Coastal Georgia and her barrier islands are very similar to the barrier island I grew up on in New Jersey.

I believe this is going to be one of those cookbooks that I turn to on a regular basis. There are many wonderful dishes awaiting me; seafood, vegetable and dessert. This cookbook would make an excellent gift for anyone with fond memories of living on the mid to southern East coast or anyone who loves good Southern cooking.



fried pork recipe

Fried Pork Recipe with Bay Laurel Gravy 

Serves 4 (I cut the recipe in half when I made it so the photos will not equate to the ingredients)

  • 4 4oz pieces of pork loin
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 TBS Tabasco
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 1/4 cups canola oil

For the Bay Laurel Gravy

  • 5 TBS reserved frying oil
  • 5 TBS reserved dredge
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 3 dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • Place the pork loin on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Flatten to 1/2″ thick with a mallet or small cast iron pan.

pork in buttermilk

  • Place in a small bowl and cover with the buttermilk and Tabasco. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  • While the pork is marinating make the dredge; in a bowl whisk together the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt, cayenne, paprika and fennel. Set aside 5 TBS for the gravy.
  • Remove the pork from the buttermilk, shaking off any excess. Coat each side in the seasoned flour. Set aside on a wire rack.
  • In a 12″ cast iron pan heat the canola oil to 350 over medium heat. You can test the oil but adding a pinch of flour – it will sizzle and float right away.

fry the pork

  • Fry two pork chops at a time. The oil should reach up to halfway up the side of the pork chops. Press down in the center of the chops to ensure even browning.
  • Cook for about 4 minutes on the first side. When the pork chops are golden brown, flip and cook on the other side for 3 minutes. Remove from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
  • Repeat with the remaining two pork chops. Reserve 5 TBS of the oil for the gravy and discard the rest.

Make the Gravy

  • In the same cast iron pan heat the reserved oil over medium heat.

make the gravy

  • When it is hot add the reserved dredge. Cook for two minutes stirring constantly.
  • Add the bay leaves and 1/2 cup milk. Whisk to remove any lumps.
  • As the gravy thickens continue to add the milk 1/2 cup at a time, continuing to whisk.
  • When the gravy reaches a boil season with salt, pepper and Tabasco.

fried pork recipe

  • Serve immediately

How Was the Fried Pork Recipe with Bay Laurel Gravy?

I will start by noting that I probably make a fried dish for dinner maybe twice a year. Fried food is heavenly but we all know it’s not the healthiest way to cook a meal. This was super delicious. The dredge and marinade made the pork flavorful. Just be sure to have the oil at the right temperature and the pork will be a crunchy delight.

fried pork recipe from The Saltwater Table

This was the first time I made this Southern classic of white gravy. It was delicious and really complemented the pork. I served it with grits – I happen to adore grits but I know they are a love ’em or hate ’em kind of side dish. The meal would also be amazing with mashed potatoes. For a vegetable I kept it simple and went with sliced, fresh tomatoes.

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