kid-friendly · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Maple-Dijon Pork Chops with Chunky Apple Topping

This dish has become a fall tradition in our house. Every October we plan a date to go apple picking as a family, usually the first weekend Mark gets off after closing his first show of the season; then, with our bounty overflowing, we get started making apple crisp and this delicious dinner that tops succulent brined pork chops with a maple-dijon glaze and a chunky apple cider sauce. It’s something we all look forward to when the air turns chilly! I made this for the first time this year just last night, and I’m looking forward to baking a sweet apple crisp this weekend, too. I can’t wait to share that with you!

These pictures are actually from the last time I made a large quantity of this for a dinner party a couple years ago (hence the Johnny’s Foodmaster packaging, for a store that doesn’t exist anymore in the Boston area!) Also pictured are some garlic-chive mashed potatoes (click here for my basic mashed potato recipe) and my balsamic roasted green beans, which is my go-to way of baking green beans in the oven so the whole family will eat them. Although there are lots of steps pictured, I actually managed this just fine on a weeknight yesterday. I threw the chops into a freezer-size bag to brine them before work with some poultry seasoning (sage, thyme and rosemary) — see brining instructions below — and then when I got home, I just set the water on to boil for the potatoes, tossed the green beans into the oven to cook, set up the apple topping on a back burner, and cooked the pork chops in the last 7 minutes while I mashed the cooked potatoes. It wasn’t hard at all!!

HOW TO BRINE

Brining, or submerging meat in salt water for tenderizing and flavor, can be done overnight or during the workday so your meat is ready to be cooked when you get home in the evening. As I wrote about in this post for Citrus Pork, brining is a simple technique that does a great job of preventing dense cuts of meat (like pork chops!) from drying out while cooking. Yesterday I just threw the chops into a double-bagged freezer Ziploc with enough water to cover them, and eyeballed the salt and herbs. In general, you want to aim for a ratio of 1 TBSP of salt for every 1 CUP of water; as long as you make sure to cover the meat completely with water and rinse them off well when you are done brining, it’s pretty hard to mess this up. You also want to use flavorings such as onions, herbs, or aromatics like ginger, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, sugar or garlic in your brining bag. If you are hoping to brine a holiday bird, like a large turkey, or a roast, definitely make sure you give it overnight to soak. Want a more in depth guide by cut of meat? This article is a good place to start.

Recipe: Maple Dijon Pork Chops with Chunky Apple Topping

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 apples, cored and chopped
  • 1 CUP apple cider
  • 3 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3-4 pork chops (or more for a crowd)
  • If brining: salt, water & herbs (I used a fresh poultry seasoning mix from the grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 TBSP Dijon or spicy brown mustard (I used the latter)
  • olive oil for the pan

DIRECTIONS

If you are making the green beans and/or mashed potatoes, set those up to boil and bake in the oven first, then turn your attention to making the apple sauce and finally to cooking the pork chops in a frying pan. If you boil the water then prep all your other ingredients, your potatoes will be done cooking around the same time as your apple topping and your green beans, meaning you can set those aside in a warm place and cook the chops while mashing the potatoes.

If you’ve brined the pork chops, make sure to rinse them well and discard any seasonings that brined with them.

To make the apple topping, cook the apples in a medium sauce pan with the cider and brown sugar and cinnamon over medium/high heat until tender, about 15 minutes, then set aside.

(I’ve listed out the step-by-step for both the green bean side and the potatoes below).

To make the pork chops, heat some olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and add the chops, seasoning with a little pepper. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Then, stir the maple syrup and mustard into the pan, tossing to coat.

Top the pork chops with the chunky apple sauce and serve alongside the mashed potatoes and green beans or sides of your choice. And enjoy!

Here’s a quick recap of the green bean recipe if you don’t want to click over to my full post about it. I bought a pre-rinsed bag of cut green beans (16 oz) and added half of a sliced onion in a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and add in a bunch of whole garlic cloves — I usually do between 6 and 10, peeled of course. Roast in the oven at 350F until browned pretty well, about 30 minutes; you want the onions to be starting to caramelize. You can also do 400F for 20 minutes, but I was timing it to be ready alongside the pork chops and potatoes here. Set aside and while still warm add a few drops of balsamic to the finished beans, tossing to coat (a little goes a long way). Serve warm.

For the mashed potato recipe you see here, I used half a bag of red potatoes (~1 pound) plus 1 stick of butter, about a half cup of milk (any kind; I used almond) and a hefty dollop of sour cream (a bit of cream cheese would also work), adding a generous sprinkling of salt to taste. I boil the potatoes, chopped in half, until fork-tender, then drain them, add them back into the stockpot and mash them by hand (skin still on) with all the ingredients mentioned above. So creamy and delicious!

I hope you enjoy this one. Stay tuned for a recap of our apple picking trip, some pictures from my recent travel to Detroit (where the food scene is bustling if you know where to look), and that apple crisp recipe I mentioned. The best part of fall is definitely the food if you ask me!

News · Tips and Tricks

Austin-Boston Food Swap

This year, for the first time, I was lucky enough to participate in the Austin-Boston Food Blogger Swap (#atxbos), which matches food bloggers from Austin, TX and Boston, MA to swap foodie care packages in the month of October. The only rules? A $30 limit and a passion for local food products!

I swapped with Austin blogger Christy Horton, a pastry and dessert blogger at Epicuriosities.com, last week. Check out the fun stuff she sent me:

Make sure you check out Christy’s blog, Epicuriosities, and follow her on Twitter @Christy111luv. She sent me her own recipe for Southern Corn Bread, which I’ll definitely be making (and blogging!) soon. I may even take her tip to throw in the candied Jalapenos to keep it Texas style. I hope she enjoys her Boston food package as much as I liked getting her sweet n’ hot Texas goodies!

And here’s what I sent to Texas: Bostonians will recognize Taza Chocolate, Slumbrew’s Porter Square Porter, Pemberton Farms mustard & more.

Thanks to the Boston Food Bloggers and Austin Food Blogger Alliance for putting this swap together. I can’t wait to participate next year ūüôā

Did I miss any awesome local products? If you have ideas, leave them in the comments!

Recipes

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Cinnamon-Sage Brown Butter

My mom and I made this recipe to celebrate Little Christmas last weekend. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, our family celebrates Little Christmas, or Ephiphany¬†— commemorating the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem — with small gifts every January 6. It’s a nice way to end the holiday season each year and we always wait to take down our Christmas Tree and holiday decorations until after this day.

We bought gnocchi at an indoor farmer’s market near my mother’s house, but you could easily make your own.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of fresh sweet potato gnocchi
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 20 fresh sage leaves, stems removed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Assorted root vegetables for roasting (optional)

Directions

First, if you are going to serve this with roasted vegetables like we did, preheat your oven to 400 and toss your sliced veggies (no need to peel if they’re organic and/or¬†from the farmer’s market like ours were) in a dollop of olive oil on the cooking sheet. These will go in for about 20 minutes or until brown but not burnt, and in the meantime you can whip up the brown butter sauce and quickly cook the gnocchi in a pot of boiling water.

If you aren’t making the veggies, just start by putting a small pot of water on to boil.¬†Gnocchi cook notoriously fast, so I’d¬†get the bulk of your brown butter made before you throw the¬†gnocchi in the boiling water. If you cook and drain them and set them aside for even 5 minutes, gnocchi will stubbornly stick together and turn into a huge block of glue. So don’t do that!

Start the sauce by melting the stick of butter of medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the 20 sage leaves.

Continue cooking, swirling here and there, until the foam subsides and the mixture begins to brown. Turn heat to low.

Stir in the maple syrup, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stir gently. (The mixture will bubble up, so be careful!)

Once the bubbles simmer down, stir the cooked gnocchi into the brown butter. Transfer to a serving dish and VOILA!

We served this with a roast pork loin for the carnivores (read: everyone but me) and some roasted root vegetables. It made for a satisfying meal to fill meat-eaters and veggies alike! Sweet potatoes and sage are a can’t-miss pairing, and this dish was no exception.

Looking for even more gnocchi recipes? Check out my last post about these delectable Italian dumplings!

This recipe was inspired by Food Network Favorite Giada De Laurteniis.

CSA 2011 · Recipes

Brussels Sprouts Gratin & Maple-Cayenne Roasted Brussels Sprouts

OK. Not everyone likes Brussels Sprouts. I know this. But, I’m among the rare 5% of people who LOVES them … and luckily, so is my husband! Today, I’ve got two recipes for the little green guys: Maple-Cayenne Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and a rich Brussels Sprouts Gratin.

Maple-Cayenne Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup if you wish.

Trim stems and outer leaves from Brussels Sprouts (about 2 pounds). Cut in half and toss on baking sheet with at least a tablespoon of Olive Oil. Season with Kosher Salt.

In a small bowl, mix together one tablespoon of real maple syrup and a dash of cayenne pepper. (You could also use red pepper flakes if you prefer).

Roast the Brussels Sprouts in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender, stirring at least once. Drizzle with maple-cayenne mixture and roast for one more minute. Remove from oven and serve warm.

***

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

This really is quite rich. I feel compelled to warn anyone with acid reflux disease or lactose intolerance that they want to medicate accordingly.

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP butter, cut into pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, outer leaves and stems removed
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and butter a 2-quart glass baking dish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the Brussels Sprouts and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the Brussels sprouts and coarsely chop.

Transfer to the buttered baking dish and toss with the red pepper flakes (if you are using them), and salt and pepper to taste, then spread out evenly. Pour the cream on top.

Sprinkle with the cheese and breadcrumbs and dot with the butter pieces. Bake the gratin until bubbly and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

The other night when I got home from work after 9, (lots of late nights recently), the gratin rounded out a nice dinner of leftovers that also included buttered toast and roasted potatoes.

Lazy lady dinner.

My Gratin recipe was inspired by this Food Network version.