So it’s snowing outside… finally. The ninth of November is pretty late for a first snow here in Colorado Springs; the football season is half over, my garden has been dead for a month, my skiing and snowboarding friends have started to panic… it really is time. I need the four seasons, how else would I know that I am getting older… or what to cook. The local grocery store is currently selling: asparagus, raspberries, pumpkins, tomatoes, cabbage, green beans and rutabagas. So it is obviously: spring, summer, fall, summer, fall, summer, and winter. I believe in eating local… sort of. There are 2 million people living on the front range of the Rockies here in Colorado (a relatively infertile patch of land)… no way we are all eating local; unless, of course, we follow the Donner Party School of Local Cannibalism. I do, at least, try to eat seasonally.
Speaking of which…it is dinnertime. I would love to slow cook something: a stew, a chili, a roast leg of… err….lamb, maybe with some fava beans and Chianti. But sadly, it is already late, and unless I want to eat at 10:00 I best choose something else. The aforementioned grocery store did provide some clues. Three dollar artichokes, five dollar cups of raspberries, ten different varieties of apples for less than a dollar a pound… I can take a hint. So how do I like them apples…??
Tonight I like them with pork, specifically boneless pork loin chops. As most everyone knows… pork loin is as lean as chicken breast. Thanks to a spectacularly successful marketing plan (the other white meat) and an equally successful breeding plan, being called a pig just doesn’t sting like it used to. I’m sure that they have lower body fat than me… and most of you.
The problem is, like skinless chicken breasts, turkey, and the skinny Donner’s, they’re just so dry. One solution: drench them in fatty gravy… but that sort of defeats the point. Second solution: top them with something healthy, like apples. Third solution, cook them properly: well-seasoned, quickly, over a very high heat. Tonight I choose solutions two and three.
For pan searing I prefer thinner chops, around ¾ of an inch thick without a bone. The bone, which does add flavor, makes for uneven cooking. Pat the chops dry with a paper towel and season LIBERALLY with salt and pepper. Slice a cored apple, peeled or not. Heat a large sauté pan until it is very hot. If you use a traditional stainless pan you will need to add some oil with a very high flash point like canola or peanut. Now is not the time for your expensive extra virgin olive oil. I don’t recommend a non-stick pan unless you are fortunate enough to have a really good one like a Scan-Pan. http://www.chefscatalog.com/product/21803-scanpan-professional-saute-pan.aspx These miracles somehow “brown” things and are still nonstick. Cheaper pans just “gray” things. A well-seasoned cast iron pan also works well.
To see if the pan is hot enough flick a little bit of water into the pan… it should sizzle instantly and evaporate in a few seconds. NOTE: DO THIS BEFORE YOU ADD ANY OIL TO THE PAN. Turn on your hood and or stove top vent, disconnect any nearby smoke alarms, and put on pants if you are not already wearing them (especially men). Seriously though, if you only use a small amount of oil it should be fine.
Add your oil, just a touch, then your chops, swirl once to make sure they all get a tiny bit of oil on them then step away. They will smoke; they may spatter but leave them alone, except for perhaps an occasional shake. Give it only around 3 minutes for the first side; if the pan was hot enough and you seasoned them well they should be nicely golden. Flip them and immediately turn the heat down. Cook the chops an additional 3 minutes, then remove them to a warm plate and cover with foil. Turn the heat back up and add all your sliced apples. The chops should be cooked through, but just barely (it is no longer considered dangerous to eat medium pork). Here it gets a bit freeform… the liquid in the apples will help deglaze the pan, all the little brown spots on the pan will release and make the apples taste better. If the apples are sweet add a bit of cider vinegar. If the apples are sour add a touch of honey. White wine, garlic, mustard, sage… all would be welcome. You won’t need a ton of salt if you seasoned the chops well, in fact the meat might taste too salty without the sweet and sour from the apples. Some rice or potatoes, a salad or a vegetable, and you have a well-balanced meal fit for a snowy night. Here is a recipe for you measurers http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=10000000258214
Tomorrow… winter tailgating ideas… just in case you get stuck in the mountains during the Superbowl.
Lastly, I want to thank the folks at Barely Escape. Their stated purpose is “to provide Colorado Springs & Manitou Springs with a resource to escape the mundane! Our focus is on locally owned businesses that are elevating the community’s landscape.” Somehow they found me… and think I fit the bill. Check them out at http://www.barelyescape.com/food-grocery/