Archived entries for apple

Unexpected places: Pork Chops Normandy

When I was twenty-five, I took an epic driving trip from the top of France to the bottom of Spain; it was a revelatory experience in more ways than one. Having previously only traveled to Paris, I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by all the delights that France had to offer: the slow but incessant variety in the flora, the subtle variations in accent and architecture. It was a neverending list of epic delights for a creature so visual as myself.

poke

And then there was the food.

For reasons unknown, until this trip I hadn’t quite clocked that there was no such thing as capital-F-French cuisine–that what we think of as French cooking is really a greatest hits collection of regional cuisines, gleaned from throughout the whole place. From the poultry-centric delights of the Perigord region (hello, foie gras!) to the citrus and fish of the Cote d’Azur, French cuisine is honestly as varied as everything else in the country–and just as complex, lovely, and unexpected. It made quite the impression on quarter-life me.

applesonions

Thinking about that the other day, I found myself wanting to recreate a dish that I’d eaten not in La Belle France, but in a dive-ish bar in Baltimore, MD. The place itself (whose name unfortunately escapes me–I promise to get back to you on this) was completely unassuming, but the food utterly spectacular. The dish in question was called pork chops Normandy, and it was no joke. Fat, delicious pork chops perfectly cooked with apples, onions, thyme and brandy, it was sufficiently delicious that I kind of regretted sharing it with Doctor Boyfriend. It was the perfect ambassador for the flavors of the region (Normandy is noted for apples and calvados, among other things), allowing the rich sweetness of the apples and the savory growl of the onions to shine through. Just the memory of it makes me hungry, so it was a no-brainer to try it out in my own kitchen.

I cannot stress strongly enough that you do the same. It takes one pan and about 45 minutes to make this happen, from the caramelization of the onions to the braising of the chops; it’s simple and straightforward, but tastes like it took you three days. Never let on that it didn’t.

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Baking for Warmth: Mini Apple-Cranberry Muffins

These cold mornings, I find myself wanting something more comforting for breakfast than my standard Special K. Oatmeal does the trick sometimes, but quickly zapping a few mini-muffins from my freezer stash is even better.

Warmed with a hefty shake of cinnamon and a shower of freshly-grated nutmeg, these moist little muffins have lovely pockets of soft-baked apple and bright tart spots of cranberries (Thanksgiving leftovers, thankfully frozen.) With a fair amount of whole-wheat flour they’re just wholesome enough to justify that cake-for-breakfast thing.

They’d be nice with a handful of nuts thrown in, or some chopped up dried apricots. I ran out of eggs this week, but unless you did too, you might even have everything you need in your pantry already. And these are even better if you don’t have to trek outside.

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Apples from the Moon: Quince-Apple Pie

I am probably not the only one who looked at the September 2009 cover of Gourmet and thought, what IS that? An apple from the moon?

That strange fuzzy green fruit was a quince, of course, and as soon as my farmer’s market had some I scooped them up. I have to say, even if you don’t plan on making this pie, buying a few quinces is a good idea just for the scent. Sitting in a bowl in your kitchen, they give off a sweet perfume for days.

In the oven, they’re even better. This pie is a bit of a business, since quince are too tough to just throw into a pie filling. Roasting the sliced quince in a bit of orange juice softens them enough to toss with slivered apples and pile high into a pie crust.

Their taste is a little musky, a little floral, and not quite as sweet as they smell. It makes for a grown-up pie with slightly rosy, spicy filling. If you’re plotting out pies for Thanksgiving, I’d suggest roasting the quince a day ahead and storing in an airtight container in the roasting liquid overnight. With the help of a big food processor, you can whip up several pie crusts the day before as well and store in your fridge until you’re ready to roll them out.

Happy November, everyone!

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