The ghouls and goblins have fled until the next year, leaving us bereft of their elusive whimsy of shape and excitement as fall fades in November. October has lingered with colors slowly fading, but after a couple of days of Indian summer, chill has come here to stay and we turn to the warmth of indoors.
The kitchen takes again its place for warmth and as a place for creating more hearty meals to send us to outdoor activities well nourished. Pork, like chicken, can come in a variety of cuts and is amenable to an infinite variety of flavors in preparation.
Beginning cooks find pork chops, like steak, one of the easiest to prepare. Presumably, all you have to do is salt and pepper the chop, heat a pan with a little oil and fry it until done on both sides.
Unlike steak, pork needs to be cooked thoroughly and more likely than not, these simple directions will give you shoe leather. Because pork is not marbled like a good steak, the lean meat dries out quickly on a hot pan, unless you take some measure to prevent this from occurring.
One of the easiest ways to prepare tender pork chops is to dredge them in a coating such as egg and breadcrumbs or panko before cooking. Flavorful oven roast pork chops are equally tender and involve less guess work about the heat of the pan for cooking and allows you to roast potatoes at the same time to accompany the meal.
Flavorful oven-roasted pork chops
In a small bowl, mix 3 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 1/2 tsp lemon pepper, 1 tsp thyme, and 1 tsp chopped rosemary. Set aside 2 tsp of the mix. In another shallow bowl, mix 1 cup panko with 1 tsp salt and 2 tbsp olive oil.
Preheat the oven to roast at 425 degrees and set the oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
Rub 4 thick, bone-in pork chops with the mustard mixture and dredge one side of the chops in the panko mixture. Set the chops on one side of the pan with the panko side up and sprinkle with some additional panko for a thick coating.
Peel 2-3 potatoes and cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks. Peel and halve 4 shallots. Toss the vegetables in 2 tbsp olive oil and arrange on the other side of the pan. Sprinkle the vegetables with some garlic salt and roast the meat and vegetables for 20 minutes, remove from oven, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
In a small pan stir together and heat 2 tsp of the reserved mustard mix, 2 tbsp olive oil, and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, and drizzle over the pork chops. Serve with colorful red sauteed cabbage.
Red sauteed cabbage
Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a large pan to hot without smoking and stir in 5 cups coarsely shredded cabbage, 2 sliced shallots or 1/2 thinly sliced red onion, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp caraway seed, and 1/2 tsp lemon pepper. Stir fry for 2 minutes, turn heat down to medium heat, and add in 1 tart apple, cored and sliced thin. Continue to saute for 4 minutes. Stir in 1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar and continue to cook until all liquid is absorbed.
Thousands of essays have been written by students in French classes about madeleines, the French desert cookie made famous by Marcel Proust in his “Remembrance of Things Past” novel. Some years past Gourmet magazine came up with a savory version of madeleines that was worth retrieving for some informal entertaining at our house.
Savory cheese and zucchini madeleines
Coarsely shred 2 small zucchini on a box grater, sprinkle with 2 tsp coarse salt, allow to sit for 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly, drain, and squeeze out all excess moisture.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan and saute 1 small, chopped onion for 10 minutes without browning, set aside.
In a large bowl stir together 1 cup of flour, 1 tbsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. In another bowl beat 3 eggs, 1 1/2 tbsp milk, 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tsp basil, 1/4 tsp pepper, the onion, and zucchini. Stir the egg mixture in the flour and mix thoroughly.
Butter and flour 2 madeleine pans or 1 1/2-inch diameter muffin pans, fill with the batter, and smooth the tops. Bake 16-17 minutes in a 400-degree preheated oven. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes, and gently release the madeleines with a spatula, bottoms up. Lightly brush with melted butter and serve warm or at room temperature.
(I. Winicov Harrington, of Waldoboro, is the author of “How to Eat Healthy and Well for Less Than $5.00 a Day: The Smart-Frugal Food Plan.” For more information, go to winicov-harrington.com.)