Fall

porkapplesYeah... The name say it all. Those flavors all melded together in one pot no less is divine. Give me flavor complements like sweet and salty or sweet and tart or sweet and savory and I'm in love! This dish bodes well for such culinary complements!

Braising is probably next to roasting as my favorite cooking method for many things. Taking a meat and braising - not boiling it - is a delicate method to delicious cuts of meat! Gently infusing a gorgeous pork chop with apple cider is nothing short of divine. And this dish is easy and relativity quick! Wilt some kale in it and you've a one dish wonder!

I start with a Dutch oven and begin browning the pork chops on either side to form a slight crust. Salt and peppering the pork and high heat allows this. Searing them may be technically more apropos in culinary diction but y'all get me! Once the chops or even tenderloin are seared and crusted, I remove them from the pan onto a plate to rest.

Next, in the onion or two go to brown in the Dutch oven...No shock there folks! I use Mimi's adage, "butter for flavor, oil for temperature!" I really like to use red onions for this dish because they're color is so lovely - plus they caramelize fantastically! Brown the onions in some butter and oil and salt and pepper handsomely. This is the base of your meal y'all and adding salt at the end to me doesn't do salt and pepper their true justice of bringing out their companions' natural flavor.

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Image What cooking method can be more primal than roasting? When humans discovered fire, it was by roasting over an open pit. Today we simulate this method of indirect cooking in the oven, achieving the best taste by concentrating flavors, retaining interior moisture, and creating a beautiful brown exterior. In gastronomy-speak, this caramelization is known as the Maillard reaction, which is the basic chemical reaction all food undergoes when cooked. But the cavepeople didn't care how sugars reacted with amino acids, all they knew was that fire made things taste good.

I often roast almost anything during the autumn months. Once October comes, roasting is my favorite activity. Meats are of course among the favorite items to roast. Just think of a luscious roast chicken or roast beef. But many seem to forget that pork and vegetables also make wonderful roasts.

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hungarian-mushroomsoup.jpgThe first time I saw the word Hungarian describing mushroom soup, I was perplexed. I am a descendent of grandparents who came to the United States from Hungary when they were young adults. My mother was 100% Hungarian. I don’t remember ever seeing mushroom soup on the dinner table. No, I’m sure if I’d grown up eating Hungarian Mushroom Soup, I would have always enjoyed eating the earthy fungi.

The truth is, I’ve never cared for mushrooms. The texture, the taste — not for me. Since last August, that’s all changed. My transformation from mushroom-challenged to fungi-infatuated began with an unexpected hunt for chanterelles when I was in Duluth. It developed further when a farmer in Frazee, Minnesota shared some of his freshly-harvested shiitake mushrooms with me.

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beetsapplesalad.jpgI love mixing sweet and savory in a recipe. It's a flavor combination I enjoy.  In classic holiday recipes you'll find apples mixed into vegetable sides, or honey-roasted chicken, or pomegranates sprinkled on salads. This dish combines apples, honey, and pomegranates with earthy beets to create a salad that's perfect for the celebration of renewal.

A little bit of fruit adds vibrancy to many dishes. Here apples are a sweet and crunchy contrast to earthy roasted beets. Pomegranate seeds strewn over top add bursts of tartness. A honey-based apple cider vinaigrette ties everything together. This salad would make a nice first course or side salad. It's refreshing and flavorful, opening the palate to a world in which sweet and savory work harmoniously together.

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winepears.jpgPears have a special place in my childhood. When I was a kid, my family would pick pears from the trees in my aunt and uncle's backyard. They always had more pears than they knew what to do with. My aunt made pear sauce, much like apple sauce, and my mom would can the pears to be eaten as compote. We would also eat them raw, when their so sweet, juicy, and buttery. I love them that way, but often enough the ones you buy in the market are not the best to eat out of hand. That's when I like to poach pears to create a unique dessert.

Poaching pears in red wine turns them into glowing red jewels with tender and succulent flesh, flavored by the spiced poaching liquid. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, or star anise can be added for exotic flavor. Citrus rind or tea leaves, like Earl Grey, also add flavor. The composition is up to you but the cooking method is simple. Once the pears are cooked, the poaching liquid can be reduced to create a syrup. Serve the pears with the reduction sauce and a dollop of crème fraîche for a very elegant dessert that would make a lovely ending to any dinner party.

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