Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple Picking & Apple Cooking Adventures!

As mentioned in my previous post I have lived in New England all my life, yet often I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that I dont make as much time as I would prefer to soak in and enjoy the changing seasons and what makes New England so special.  Thus, this year I have made an effort to do more seasonal activities as well as another goal to also learn to cook more.  I hope to share in my adventures of both New Englandy fun as well as my meager attempts to learn to cook!  I'm no foodie, but I'm happy to share some of the things I have enjoyed and liked along the way!

Autumn is my favorite season, with the crispy cool air, red-orange-yellow foliage, the crunch of fallen leaves, and apple and pumpkin flavored goodies (e.g., pumpkin spice latte, cider donuts, caramel apples, etc), mmmm.  The other weekend we decided to go apple-picking for a triple couples date outing. 
 The bag got so heavy by the end, we needed teamwork to carry the 20+lb bag back to the car.

We also planned a 3-course meal, making 5 dishs, all using apples! We made some classic apple dishes (e.g., apple crisp) as well as unique dishes including apples (e.g., curried eggs and apple). 

Our dishes included:
1. Salad: cranberry/grape, apple, and nut salad
2. Appetizer/Entree: curried eggs & apple
3. Entree: sweet potato & apple gratin
4. Entree: pork chops with golden apple sauce
5. Dessert: apple crisp

Prepping the "curried eggs and apples" dish

Mixing up the oats to put into our apple crisp

 Braising the apples for the golden apple topping for the porkchops

 Stirring up the topping for our salad, with apples, green onions, and pistachios mixed in a light lime dijon dressing mixture

 Layering up the sweet potato & apple gratin 

Final products!

Close up of some of the finished dishes!

All the dishes were delicious, but my favorite was the pork chops dish.  We used the simple Rachel Ray recipe below:

Pork Chops with Golden Apple Sauce

  • 4 Golden Delicious apples, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 ounces golden raisins, a handful
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger root
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 cups all natural apple juice or cider, plus a splash for pan sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
  • 4 (1-inch) thick center cut boneless pork loin chops, 6 to 8 ounces each
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
Combine first 8 ingredients in a medium pot placed over medium high heat and cook until a chunky sauce forms, 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sauce begins to spatter as it bubbles, reduce heat back a little, but it should be allowed to reduce and form quickly. Once apples are soft and sauce forms, remove it from the heat.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to the pan. Season chops on 1 side with salt and pepper. Using a pair of tongs, add chops to hot skillet seasoned side down. Season the opposite side of the chops with salt and pepper. Brown and caramelize the chops 2 minutes on each side, then reduce heat to medium and cook another 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, until juices run clear. Remove chops from heat and let them rest a couple of minutes for juice to redistribute. Deglaze the pan with a splash of apple juice and 2 tablespoons of butter. Pour pan sauce over chops. Remove ginger from the sauce and top chops with generous portions of warm golden apple sauce.

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