Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dark Days Dinner #15: Sage Pork Chops with Apple Slaw

Back in December, I drove to the other side of Cayuga Lake on some errands, and while over there I added a stop at a farm for some local beef and pork. I cooked with their bacon right away, but the pork chops have sat in the freezer for months now, just waiting for inspiration to strike me.

There are a couple of reasons it was a long time coming, not the least of which is that once when we were first dating, Doug mentioned to me that he didn't like pork chops. I, of course, could not fathom this. Not  like a pork product? That happens? I knew I had to right that wrong. I'd cooked pork tenderloin for him to great reviews, but chops have only been braved a couple of times before, and I'm not sure he was yet convinced.

"Too dry" was the main complaint. This at least I should be able to handle. I knew that bone-in chops would have more of an advantage in this department though, and the ones I had were boneless. Could I come up with something tasty and moist and still keep it a Dark Days meal?

After thumbing through some cook books (taking careful notes on cooking temperatures for pork so I could be sure to not over-do them), I found just the perfect thing. From Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave, I would do my own version of her Sage-Rubbed Pork Chops with Warm Apple Slaw.

Here's what I did:
  1. Combined chopped fresh sage, garlic, salt and pepper and rubbed it on the chops.
  2. Browned those chops in a bit of butter, about two minutes on each side.
  3. In the same pan (now empty), sautéed one shredded apple, about six or seven sliced shallots, and some more chopped sage until softened, maybe five or six minutes.
  4. Added about four cups of pac choi , three cups of shredded carrots, some cider vinegar and some salt and cooked it about another two minutes or so.
  5. Nestled the pork chops back into the slaw mixture, added in their juices along with a bit of chicken broth, covered and cooked until the chops were 160°F inside (about five minutes).
Since I know the whole meal will not be a loss in my husband's mind as long as there's mashed potatoes involved, I served these along side a big pile of roased garlic mashed taters and topped the whole thing with pan juices.

Turns out, I needn't have worried: the chops were perfect, the slaw mouth wateringly tasty and the combination of the two along with the sage was out of this world. It was one of those annoying meals where I kept moaning and saying things like "oooh, this is good", "I can't believe how tasty this is", "so many flavors", "mmm" etc etc etc.

How local was I? / What did I learn?
  • The chops were from High Point Farms in Trumansburg, about 15 miles from here, including the jag down around the end of the lake.
  • The carrots were from Stick and Stone Farm, again just north of Ithaca on the other side of the lake.
  • The pac choi was from Finger Lakes Fresh right over in Freeville (12 miles).
  • The apple was from down on the storage 'fridge. It really is from a town in Northwestern NY called Lyndonville, about 140 miles from here. I'm sure I could have gotten the same Empire apple right here at the Cornell orchard, but similar to other items in other DDC meals, I could't quite justify getting a new item just to have it be local when I have others on hand.  A cop out? Maybe...
  • The butter was home made from milk from Moravia (13 miles).
  • The garlic and shallots were from Dad's garden.
  • The potatoes were also from western New York (Elba, about 120 miles); my supply of very-local spuds has dried up for the winter, and until the Farmer's Market starts up again next month, this was the most local I could find (easily).
  • I did buy the sage from the grocery, with the source listed only as "USA", and without even thinking, I used standard grocery store milk in the potatoes even though I had local milk on hand.
  • I learned that sage, apples and pork are a really good mix. I grew up eating apple sauce with pork chops and loving it, but somehow in this dish the complimentary flavors were really expressed. Often I don't notice such things, but this whole thing worked together remarkably well.

The best part about it though is that I might, just might, have put pork chops back on the "OK to serve" list!


Other local happenings:

1.  Remember those daffodil sprouts I mentioned last post? Here's a where's waldo for you:

(This is what you're looking for):

2. The sap is still flowing, slow and steady. We're up to over five gallons of finished syrup now, and should be boiling more this afternoon! The Bug and I went down to the creek ("roc in kree") this morning to check. As you can see, he's an excellent helper:

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