Clayton summed up this meal best when he said, “Sometimes I wish I had a retractable jaw, so that I could scrape every last atom of this pork chop off the bone with my teeth…” So do I, dear husband, so do I. This is meal #2 from the veritable Blood Farm in West Groton, Mass; pork chops freshly divorced from their porcine whole. Saturday night’s filet mignon was the best steak I’ve ever eaten; tonight’s pork chops were my encore experience in ultimate protein consumption. This is when the quality and freshness of the meat shows its importance on the plate: seasoned only with a little salt and pepper and simply pan-seared in its own drippings, floating on a rich puddle of cider sauce, coupled with domino apples and potatoes, stippled with cider-simmered-sweetened warm onion relish. This is a company meal. Word.
Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apple Potato Bake over Rich Apple Gravy
2 8oz bone-in pork chops
1 Empire apple (or any other red delicious apple)
2 apple-sized potatoes: 1 red, 1 russet
3 oz duck fat (or clarified butter, or plain ol’ butter – if you’re not fussy)
1 medium white onion
2 cups fresh apple cider
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbs butter
1 tsp flour
4 sprigs rosemary
sea salt, black pepper
The French word for apple is pommes; the French term for potato is pommes de la terre, or “apple of the earth”. I was inspired by this thoroughly apt linguistic convention, made manifest when looking at the thickness of the skin and the color of the flesh of both spud and apple, which are virtually indistinguishable by sight only – and by Erin Schubert’s recent post on her lovely blog a new bloom (Danke!). I’d already mastered the domino potato, but interspersing my slender spud slices with slender apple slices was like a thunderbolt of wanticipation! I just *had* to try this recipe. So, with my mandoline set at 1.3 (centimeters thick? I really should know what that setting means…), I make my potatoes and apples into card stacks.
I roasted a duck a few weeks back (and no, I didn’t blog this one — every once in a while me n’ the husband want to have a private dinner, y’know?), which yielded me 6 oz of perfect duck fat I’ve been dying to use. Tonight was the night.
Slice o’ apple, slice o’ white spud, slice o’ red spud, slice o’ white spud, slice o’ apple… and so on. My pommes pommes are a domino stack of alternating potato and apple slices, brushed with duck fat (on top and liberally in-between), heartily sprinkled with salt and pepper, and wrapped with a rosemary sprig. I set these ramekins into a 400° oven to roast for about an hour.
When I’ve got about 20 minutes left, I start on my chops. Since I’m sampling this super-fresh pork just purchased the other day at Blood Farm (see my last post for more details about this slaughterhouse heaven), I didn’t want to adulterate it with too many spices. A sprinkling of salt and pepper, and I add them directly to my non-stick skillet along with another teaspoon of hot duck fat. Just like I did Blood’s tenderloin, I flipped these every minute, searing them for a total of 15 minutes.
The thick band of fat along the edge shrinks a little and causes my chop to curl up a bit. When this has happened with inferior meat, it often means I get dry, tough meat. But not this time. Oh no, mon frere, these slabs of pig are so fresh, so good, that they end up being perfectly juicy and tender…
… whereas the fat slab crisps up like cracklin’. My apple/stock has reduced to a concentrated nectar, so I add my flour blended with my softened butter at the last few moments of simmering to thicken it slightly. Then I strain the gravy directly onto the plate, on which I lay my porcine steak.
My mother never made pork chops and applesauce, so I never really understood the appeal. Now I do. This plate just smacks of autumn. Pigs that have fed well since the spring are ready to grace us with their delicious meat; both the apples from the branch and the apples from the ground are ready for harvest, and the rosemary bushes are fully formed and ready for overwintering indoors. Together on the plate, these simple ingredients come together in a symphony of sumptuous scrumptiousness. Sweet and savory, tart and tasty, crispy and creamy, meaty and rich – a fall feast fit for a king!