With the temperatures noticeably dipping below anything anyone would call “summer,” I found my mind wandering away from the light and often simple dishes I tend to associate with warm weather. Instead, I couldn't help but fantasize about food that seemed, somewhat, more substantial. I had visions of golden-hued, perfectly browned butternut squash gratin, pictured delectable root vegetable tarts I sometimes like to make in colder weather, and thought that I could already feel the warmth that an Alsatian Tarte Flambée would deliver to my hungry belly.
In the end, I thought that I also wanted a piece of meat. Having grown up the way I did, pork was always much more prevalent in my diet than any other meat. While, these days, I cannot deny that I am somewhat more enamored with beef, I still find myself drawn to pork on colder days. To me, there is something reassuring about a perfectly cooked piece of pork.
Then, of course, there is the visually-appealing tendency of pork to acquire a lovely golden color that, some might say, represents the epitome of a mostly beige dish. As such, pork clearly lends itself to being a predestined ingredient on this site.
When I grew up, pork usually came as a Schnitzel and sometimes as a roast. Not much else came with it, either – it could be as simple as a piece of hearty bread and some butter. Yes, times were different back them. These days, it is clear to me that vegetables are not just important for our health and well-being, but that they can also be utterly delicious – a concept that completely eluded me as a child.
As I have stated many times before, most recipes that one can encounter are borrowed. They have been passed down for generations, they have been shared by friends, and/or they have been altered to accommodate individual tastes. My inspiration for this dish comes from Curtis Stone – a very accomplished chef. While I would not go as far as calling Curtis a good friend quite yet, I can proudly proclaim that I know of him and that I am very aware that the man knows how to cook.
With this in mind, let us embark on a journey to a quick and delicious meal that is perfect for a cool or even cold autumn evening.
4 boneless Pork Chops. I have played around with thickness a bit but find that I like chops that are about ½ to ¾ of an inch the best.
1 large Fennel bulb.
1 ½ lbs. Sweet Potatoes/Yams.
2 large Fuji Apples.
2 stalks fresh Rosemary.
1 cup Apple Juice.
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard.
1 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. All-Purpose Flour.
Let's get started:
Take your pork chops out of the refrigerator and set aside.
Add a rimmed baking sheet or pan to your oven.
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1-inch pieces.
Cut the fronds off of the fennel bulb and trim a thin layer from the base.
Stand the fennel bulb on the freshly cut base and cut the fennel in half along it's long side.
With a paring knife, remove the tough core at the base of the bulb.
Lay the fennel bulb halves on their cut side and slice into thick strips – about four or five per half.
Core the apples and cut into thick slices – about eight per apple.
Add everything to a large bowl.
Add 2 Tbs. of olive oil
Add a good pinch of salt.
Add freshly-ground pepper to taste.
With scissors, cut the rosemary stalks into pieces roughly 1 inch in length. Add the pieces to the bowl as well.
Toss the bowl contents until well blended.
Carefully add the bowl contents to the hot baking sheet/pan and roast, for about 20 to 25 minutes. Make sure you turn over the ingredients every once in a while.
Sit down and relax for a bit – if you can.
About ten minutes before time is up (and your veggies and the apples are juicy and tender), lay out your pork chops and remove any and all fat from them (unless you really like fat – I don't!).
Sprinkle some salt and freshly-ground pepper on both sides of the chops.
Heat a large frying pan (does not have to be non-stick) on medium-high heat.
Add 3 Tbs. olive oil.
When the oil is hot, add the chops to the pan.
Do NOT move the chops around.
Let them sear for 2 ½ minutes (2 if your chops are on the skinny side).
Turn the chops over and sear for another 2 ½ minutes (2 if they are skinny).
If you notice upon turning the chops over that the chops are somewhat pale, raise the heat. If they seem a bit too dark, lower the heat.
The pork chops should end up with a lovely golden crust on both sides.
Remove chops from the pan and let rest for five minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-low.
Pour off all but about 1 or 2 Tbs. of the hot olive oil and put pan on the stove again.
Carefully add the apple juice – be aware that the hot pan will cause the juice to bubble and steam immediately.
Add 1 Tbs. of Dijon mustard and quickly stir in with a wire whisk. Doing so will also loosen the browned bits and pieces that are left in the pan from searing the pork.
Let simmer for a minute or two.
Melt 1 Tbs of butter (I put it into a small bowl and pop in in the microwave for 30 seconds).
Add 1 Tbs. of All-Purpose flour to the butter and stir to integrate all of the flour.
Add the butter/flour mixture to the pan with the hot apple juice and incorporate with the wire whisk to thicken the sauce.
Plate the pork chops.
Remove the veggies/apples from the oven and plate desired portions alongside the pork chops.
Drizzle plenty of sauce over both and serve immediately.