Pork Chops, Applesauce, and my Mother and Mother-in-Law with Recipes and Such
In addition to being very near and dear to my heart, my mother (Margaret) and mother-in-law (Dori), share three things in common:
1) They were both raised in the Midwest (Kansas and Iowa, respectively).
2) They both have German ancestry.
3) The former is a good cook and the latter was (Dori passed many years ago) a great cook, but they both cooked the hell out of pork chops.
I never understood it, but I think it was born of a fear of trichinosis, as if the wheat and corn fields that surrounded their homes were threaded with diseased pork phobia genetic code. Mom, a Depression-era baby trying to feed four kids on a budget she never could forget even in good times, weekly bought those razor thin “chops” in value packs, layered them into a baking pan, seasoned with salt and pepper, and added a generous drizzle of barbecue sauce. She would then tightly wrap it with foil and bake at 350F for as long as she was sure it was done. My childhood memory wants to say at least two hours, and I’m not kidding. The result, God bless her, was flavorless shoe leather. A complete disservice to pork and not a favorite childhood food memory, though I sincerely appreciate the effort, and do to this day. Dori, meanwhile, was surrounded with gorgeous corn-fed beef and pig buying options and always brought the most gorgeous cuts. A lover of her pies and all the goodies that came from her very talented cooking skill set and kitchen, I remained ever hopeful every time she put them on the grill or in the oven. But, sadly, the trichinosis thing took over and even the most beautiful Iowa pork chop imaginable was cooked to death.
So, as I grew older and started learning more about cooking on a personal and professional level, pork chops (and all other chops) was the first thing I tackled after trying to master Dori’s pie crust. Making beautiful pork chops is not hard and there really are only a few rules to keep in mind. Begin with buying the best quality chop possible. All chops are cut from the loin that runs perpendicular to the pig’s spine. My favorite of these are the rip chops (cut from the rib portion of the loin) and the center cut pork loin with contains a T-shaped bone (as pictured here). Thick cut pork chops are about 1 1/2 – 2″ deep and usually weigh about 12 ounces, or 3/4 of a pound. Bring them to room temperature before cooking, removing from the fridge about 30 minutes before you begin. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 350. Using a seasoned cast iron skillet or an enamel-lined cast iron skillet or the heaviest, best quality, oven-proof saute pan you have, heat about 2 tablespoons each butter and olive oil over medium high to high heat. When sizzling, add the pork chops (leaving space, I do two at a time). Cook until golden brown and easily pulled from the pan, about 3 minutes. Repeat on the second side. Turn over again. Place in the oven, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the chop draws clear juices. The chops should be firm, but slightly pliable to the touch. (Note: If you prefer to use a meat thermometer, insert into the thickest part of the chop. You’ll want a reading no lower than 145F and no higher than 160F). I like to brush mine down lightly with barbecue sauce on both sides (I know, old habits die hard), rest on a clean plate drizzled with all the pan juices and loosely covered with foil, for about 20 minutes. The resting is one of the most important steps and not to be taken lightly. It allows the fat and juices and flavor to re-absorb into the meat where it will be waiting for your knife and fork and grumbling belly.
Pork Chops with applesauce are a common pairing for a reason – they’re smashing together. The sweetness of apples with the milky sweetness of chops are a match made in heaven especially when paired with the earthiness of sage (add that to your chop seasoning mix) and cinnamon in the applesauce. It may seem a little early to speak of apples and fall, but hints of its imminent (and always welcome to this New England girl’s soul) arrival are everywhere. Kids are going back to school, Halloween candy is in the stores, and that subtle shift of fall light has barely begun. This is a lovely recipe from one of my cookbooks, Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith). Its simplicity makes it divine and it is both beautiful and healthy. Make it a day ahead and serve room temperature alongside your pork chops.
(Yields 2 1/2 cups)
Roasting apples with a bit of lemon juice and sugar ensures that all of the juices, flavor, and nutrients stay in one delicious place, and it also yields apples so tender they are nary in need of mashing. The McIntosh virtually melt on their own, while the slightly sturdier, sweet-tart Jonathan variety require a quick final mash. Perfect on its own, warm from the oven, this applesauce is lovely with a swirl of unsweetened cream over yogurt or ice cream, or as a side to pork roast and chops.
3 Jonathan apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
3 McIntosh apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400F. Toss all of the ingredients together on a rimmed baking sheet, coating evenly. Arrange in a single layer. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the apples are very soft and easily break to the touch. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
While still warm, place the apples and all of their juices into a manual bowl. With a hand-held masher, gently mash until the applesauce is chunky smooth. Serve warm or cold. Will store, refrigerated and covered, for several days.
Happy and delicious cooking out there, my friends. Cooler days are ahead and pork chops and applesauce season is almost here. If you’re ever in greater Charleston, SC, remember to look me up for a private personalized cooking class in my kitchen. I’ve just updated the link on this site with new details and pictures. Here’s the link:
If you’re looking for a wonderful gift for the Charleston lover in your life (and really, who isn’t one?), consider purchasing my latest cookbook, The New Charleston Chef’s Table (Globe Pequot Press, May 25, 2018) to learn more about the history and food traditions of this town, visit with 80 of her best chefs, and cook from their magnificent recipes. Available online at Amazon and major and boutique bookstores now. I can always sign one for you in person at any of my cooking classes.
Voila! She’s Finally Here and A Cookbook Give Away
It’s been a long time since I’ve visited. It’s been a very busy and wonderful year. In addition to a new cookbook (number nine), I have a now sixteen month-old puppy named Rocky (Rocken Roll) and have been enjoying writing press and news for a large Charleston restaurant group.
I deem The New Charleston Chef’s Table “number nine” with some hesitation, as I’m not sure exactly what to call a new edition of an old book (the original Chef’s Table came out in 2009). Is that really a new book? But since it’s essentially an 80% new book, that is almost all of the old book was pulled and new restaurants, chefs and recipes were added, I’m going to go with number nine.
The reason so much of it is new is that Charleston went through yet another massive restaurant renaissance during the past decade. What was delicious got even more delicious and the boundaries for types of food and restaurant locations and styles got even broader. Increasingly, Charleston taste buds veered farther from formality and more towards casual ethnicity diversification, but always, always with a demand for outstanding cuisine. Because, if it was not delivered, those restaurants went away in short order.
Reluctant at first to take on such a huge task, I was glad I did, and am grateful for the opportunity from Globe Pequot Press. The New Charleston Chef’s Table truly reflects the Charleston of now, which was my intention. I pursued recipes that were less structured and more adaptable for the home cook. Some of my favorites include Leon’s Whole Grain Spoon Salad, Fig’s Classic Arugula Salad, Crust’s Chilled Summer Corn Soup, Lewis’ Hatch Green Chile Corn Pudding, The Ordinary’s Fish Schnitzel, and The Daily’s Buttermilk Rhubarb Fool. In this book, more than in the original, I let the book morph with the commentary and thoughts of the chefs. For example, Matthew Niessner at Halls Chophouse didn’t want to share just one recipe, but an entire meal catered to this audience, just as he likes to do for groups when they come to Halls. So he shared recipes for creamed corn, iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, and how to perfectly prepare a restaurant style ribeye. Meanwhile, at Mex 1 Coastal Cantina I surfed with Ryan Jones into the Baja, California peninsula and cool surfer mentality with cantina chicken tacos and stewed lima beans slow and steady with Martha Lou Gadsen of Martha Lou’s Kitchen.
The design and editing team did a beautiful job of designing the book, which is verdant and fresh with lots of green color and beautiful photography, and has an equally more casual and modern look, reflecting an ever morphing Charleston.
The book was released this past week and is available at major bookstores and online now. I’m offering a signed cookbook to one of you. Just click like on this post or elsewhere where you see it and I’ll do a randomly picked number search on June 4 and announce the winner that day.
Wishing you a beautiful and soulful Memorial Day!
If it’s possible to still be a Daddy’s girl at 52, then I’m as guilty as the six year-old that wears him like a badge of honor on my heart, then as I do now. He enforced strict discipline and never tolerated lies he was somehow able to sniff out like a dog on the hunt. He taught unconditional love at every turn, returning from arduous week-long business trips, always ready to give his energy to his pack of four children and our mother on weekends. These often involved long rides on our horses, tag football, and summer evenings spent watching fireflies on our country front porch. When we were really lucky, these nights ended with him recanting imagined tales of Cookie to all of us, under a “tent” in the living room. And, when the summer heat really turned on, Saturday afternoons meant cherished and rare trips to Dairy Queen for ice cream. I favored the soft serve vanilla twist cones dipped in confetti peanut/candy, but sometimes one of us, Dad included, went whole hog and indulged in a hot chocolate sauce banana split. So, even now, I can’t think of ice cream sundaes without thinking of my Dad.
Time may have softened the lines of these memories, erasing the tears from an overly tired child or admonishments from a frustrated Dad, but at their core, they remain true to the man he was and is. The best Dad I could ever hope to have and my eternal night in shining armor, still shining at 84 years of age. The recipe that follows is an adult version of a very, very indulgent sundae that far surpasses DQ’s confetti candy and moves into the realm of butter, mashed bananas, brown sugar, walnuts and rum, though the latter can be wholly omitted without really missing a beat. From my cookbook Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith), it might be just the right treat for your Dad this Father’s Day.
Mashed Bananas Foster Sundaes
(Yields 8 sundaes)
The classic brown sugar, butter and rum sauce wrapped around flash-cooked and flambeed ripe bananas was created by Chef Paul Blange at Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans in 1951. The dark brown sauce is just the right foil for the sweetness of bananas. Lightly mashed and served warm over commercial vanilla ice cream with a crumble of chopped walnuts, it is sublime and comes together in minutes. To flambe, carefully tip the saute pan to meet your stovetop gas flame, or quickly hit with a lighter flame. The flambe is important to cook off the burn of the alcohol and increase flavor, although the rum can be omitted altogether. This is best served straight from the pan, but will store refrigerated and covered for a day or two. Reheat before serving over a few scoops of ice cream.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 tablespoons
1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
4 ripe bananas, peeled, halved vertically, and halved again horizontally
1/3 cup dark rum (optional)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 quarts best quality vanilla ice cream
In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the brown sugar, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, canilla, and salt. Cook together over medium-low heat, stirring, about 2 minutes. Carefully add the bananas and gently stir to coat, cooking for 3 minutes. Add the rum, stir to combine, and flambe, standing back to avoid the flame. Gently mash into large chunks using a manual masher or wooden spoon. Remove from heat and cool slightly for 1 – 2 minutes. Serve warm in individual bowls over 2 or 3 scoops of ice cream. Garnish with a tablespoon or so of chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.
Happy Father’s Day!
As we all look towards 2017, just hours away, I want to send my best wishes to all of my readers and the world for a healthy, happy, joyful, peaceful and prosperous New Year. Towards that end, I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes from Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith, Sept. 2016) as my gift to you as we move into the future. Happy New Year!
Lucky Prosperity Soup
(reprinted with permission of Gibbs-Smith, Publisher)
Yields 8 to 10 servings
New Year’s Day in the South ushers in a call to wealth and prosperity, which are symbolized by black-eyed peas (representing coins) and collard greens (representing greenbacks). Often, they’re cooked separately, usually with some ham hock for flavor, and put together on the same plate with rice. This delicious soup takes the best of the bunch and puts them all in one pot, with the exclusion of rice. If you can’t find collard greens, substitute kale or another sturdy green. This soup is finished with a traditional sweet and onion splash from a southern garnish known as chow-chow. If you cannot find it, substitute a tradtional relish, but modify the results as suggested in the recipe.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
3 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 cups (1 1/4 pounds/ 565g) rehydrated black-eyed peas, rinsed
3/4 pound (340g) smoked ham hock
8 cups (1.9l) water
1 large bunch collard greens, rinsed, tough stems removed and discarded, and cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) strips
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or Tabasco
1/3 cup (80g) chow-chow or 2 tablespoons traditional relish
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to coat. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Deglaze with the vinegar and reduce quickly to a glaze.
Add the peas, ham, water, collard greens, and remaining salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high and reduce to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 1 hour, until thickened and the greens have cooked down and the peas are soft, but holding their shape. Remove the ham hock from the pot and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, using an immersion blender, briefly mash the soup in the cooking pot to help incorporate the beans and the greens. When cool enough to handle, cut off and remove outer fat and skin layers from the hock. Cut off any visible meat, finely chop, and return to the pot; discard the rest. Just before serving, stir in the hot sauce and chow-chow. Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve steaming hot and sit back and count your lucky stars.
This is an absolutely award-winning soup that beats Hoppin’ John any day in my book. Bon appetit and best wishes for a wonderful 2017.
Love, me and Mr. Purrfect, the very handsome cat who thinks he’s a dog.
The older you get, the more you realize how important it is to be grateful for all that life, God and the universe have given you. When I was a kid (though always grateful), I think I took for granted that I would always have a warm house, a full refrigerator, parents who loved and disciplined me, and a merry future with a great education, hopefully marriage and children, and a rewarding career. And, except for children, all of those things were always there.
As I enter the early years of my 5th decade, I realize how lucky and blessed I have been and am grateful for that and all that still remains. First and foremost, health. I’ve witnessed many friends, my age and many much younger, lose beloved friends and family members this year, many to horrific and hard to understand circumstances. I’m grateful to have two parents who are still vital and healthy, even as they both move towards their mid-eighties. I’m grateful for my beautiful house, a house that has become a home in the first full year it’s been lived in by me and my little pet family. It now houses memories and shadows of faces and good, well-lived and sometimes sad days past. I’m grateful for my bed, which I embrace every morning and thank “it” for proferring such a delicious night’s sleep. I’m grateful for my wonderful neighbors. I’m grateful for a steady stream of work in an unpredictable business. I’m grateful for the beauty of the world that surrounds me in Charleston, my adopted home of almost seventeen years. She still stuns me and silences me with the glory of her sunsets and the wisdom of her old soul. I’m grateful to have made it through months and days of mourning the dual loss of my beloved Tann Mann and Chutney Cat last spring. Days and months that felt like I was walking through milk (no, make that bechamel, cold bechamel and not a well seasoned one) wearing a blindfold on my eyes and shackles on my feet. Finally the blindfold and shackles fell, milk cleared to bright and eventually happy, and for that I credit God, faith, family and friends, and especially Mr. Purrfect, my slate grey and pure white Tuxedo cat who thinks he’s a dog, walks on a leash, and curls up on my back as I sleep. He also loves yogurt and a nice bit of cheese and has been the source of much amusement and joy since he entered my life six months ago. I’m grateful to my darling Michael (affectionately known as The Adorable One, or TAO), a constant rainbow of love and laughter who walked with me every step of the way, good and bad, this year and for several past.
Finally, I’m grateful for Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith, Sept. 6, 2016) which was a joy to create and write and I’ve loved watching people cook from it this fall and tell me how much they’ve enjoyed it. The recipe that follows is one of my top three favorites in the book, and one of the top ten I’ve ever created for any cookbook or anyone. It’s perfect. The celery trifecta – celery root, fresh celery, and celery seeds – is the idyllic foil to the creamy potatoes and offer delightful little bites of texture and flavor in each bite. And, what goes better with celery and potatoes than turkey? This is THE consummate side for your table. Make it today or on Thanksgiving, refrigerate, and reheat it over a water bath while the turkey’s resting and everyone begins to toast the holiday, giving thanks for all they love and value.
Triple Threat Celery Mash
(Yields 8 servings)
1 large celery root, rough outer skin and inner skin removed and discarded , and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 stalks fresh celery, trimmed, cleaned and cut into 1”-lengths (Note: Reserve any fresh celery leaves for garnish)
Water to cover
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Finely chopped fresh celery leaves for garnish
Place the prepped celery root, potatoes, and fresh celery in a medium pot. Cover generously with fresh, cold water. Add salt. Bring up to a boil over high and reduce to a simmer over medium/medium low heat. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until all ingredients are very tender when pierced with a knife or fork. Pour the potatoes, celery root, celery and water into a colander and drain well. Return to the warm cooking pot. Heat the celery/potato mixture over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, shaking to move around the pan and dry out the ingredients. Separately, heat the cream, butter and celery seed in the microwave or in a saucepan until warm and melted. Pour, in thirds, into the celery and potato mixture, mashing coarsely with a manual masher to combine and puree. Season with salt and pepper, tasting to adjust as needed. Serve hot, and garnish if desired with a few chopped celery leaves. (Note: The mash will store beautifully in a sealed container for up to 3 days. Reheat over water bath or microwave before serving.)
Love, Holly and Mr. Purrfect, The Cat who Thinks He’s a Dog