HIGH ON THE HOG – PAN-SEARED PORK CHOPS WITH GRAPES AND LEMON

Pan-seared pork chops with grapes-0153

Last week we ate low on the hog, flavoring a polenta and squash dish with a bit of pancetta.  This week we’re stepping up our pork game, way up, with Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Grapes and Lemon. Fatty pork is once again becoming available for those without restaurants or the price of airfare to Italy.  Real pork chops–as versus the pink things wrapped in plastic in most supermarkets–are uncomplicated to cook, and delicious to eat.  Personally speaking, this recipe marks a turning point for me, a return to cooking chops at home after a 20-year hiatus.  Somebody cast a spell on this country’s pigs a couple of decades ago, morphing their chops and loins into a tough, flavorless substance called “the other white meat.”  If your experience with pork has been barbecue or bacon, then you owe it to yourself to get down to a farmers market to suss out some chops from heritage breeds of pork and taste the real deal.

Tomato and Farro Soup

 

Tomato-Farro Soup-282-14242

 

Back in 2001, when we were working on our cookbook, farro was still rare.  If you went to the right restaurants, if you frequented the vortices of culinary hipness.  Italian delis, in New York or San Francisco maybe.  Specialty food stores, the occasional sighting.  How the world has turned in a dozen years!  Now you can often buy farro in grocery stores, which is a good thing if you want to make this week’s Tomato – Farro Soup.

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans-13163

Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes?  Culinary gravity inexorably pulls them toward brown sugar or molasses or something candied, even with bacon (candied bacon).  But don’t do it, at least not this time.  I never encountered a sweet potato during my year abroad in the Swiss canton of Fribourg, a stone’s throw from the town of Gruyères (town, plural: cheese, singular), but I can guarantee that that if there were ever a culinary match made in heaven it’s sweet potato and that most hazelnut and butter flavored of all cheeses, aged Gruyère.  Some cheeses should never be melted (sorry, brie en croute is ghastly) but Gruyère is just the opposite.  Quiche, the poster child of boring French food from the ’70’s, is redeemed by the addition of aged Gruyère.  Fondue without Gruyère is but a pale revenant of the real deal.  Gruyère is expensive (around $20/lb.) but the recipe only calls for a cup and half of the stuff, grated, about 3 ounces.  Unfortunately, I only found out about the Gruyère after the ingredients photograph had been taken.  Jody announced that she’d added Gruyère–I couldn’t even photograph it being stirred into the bowl.  I growled and stomped around.  I should have waited until I tasted the finished pie.  Gruyère and sweet potatoes rule.

Eggplant, Pepper and Tomato Gratin

Eggplant, Pepper and Tomato Gratin-1

Gratin typically brings to mind a rich and cheesy dish of root vegetables (pronounced by all American children to rhyme with “all rotten”).  Nutritional guilt over this fat fest drives food bloggers to frantic rearrangements of their refrigerator poetry magnets into epithets like “a holiday indulgence” and a “once in awhile treat.”  But in the Adams-Rivard kitchen we scoff at a such reservations.  We eat gratins when we feel like it, whether Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny is joining us for dinner or not. Thank God for bicycles.  Which offers me a segue into this week’s dish, Eggplant, Pepper and Tomato Gratin.  While pedaling through Provence a month ago we couldn’t help but notice how much lighter a Provencal gratin is than its Gerard Depardieu-like cousins to the north.  The cream had vanished, along with much of the cheese, both supplanted by olive oil, bread crumbs, and fistfuls of crushed herbs.  Olive oil, we were reminded, transforms the flesh of vegetables into something unctuous.  Caramelization is the gilding on the lily.

Fig, Plum and Hazelnut Tart

Fig, Plum and Hazelnut Tart-530-8819

Oh, the things we do, the torments we endure, so you don’t have to.  The week’s Fig, Plum and and Hazelnut Tart didn’t start out as the walk in the park below.  After helping everyone become a tart shell master last week we thought we’d put the technique to good use with a simple fig and mascarpone tart.  However, after half our figs disappeared the night before we were scheduled to blog, we had to rethink our plan.  Nearby Allandale Farm had no figs, but they did have plums.  Voilà fig and plum tart.

Seared Brussels Sprouts with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

The idea was to come up with a side dish for Thanksgiving.  But after much soul searching and a brainstorming session based on What do you do with Brussels sprouts? we decided that the world wasn’t crying out for another version of brussels sprouts with bacon.

You’re welcome.

Instead we’re offering Seared Brussels Sprouts with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce.  People who do not love Brussels sprouts (me) love these.