Sunday, January 4, 2009

Surprises and Familiarity

I just finished reading Kristin Espinasse's book Words in a French Life. It is a delightful look into an expat's daily life in France. While reading it, I discovered a card, the eight of hearts to be exact. One of the benefit's of my downtown job is that the main branch of the library is a few doors down. Most of the books I read are borrowed from this fine institution and I have lately found several surprises tucked into the pages by the person that was there before me; maps, train tickets, grocery list, and now a playing card. I love finding these little gifts. The very solo activity of reading suddenly becomes personal and intimate. I find myself wondering if this slip of paper has meaning or was it simply the closest impromptu bookmark? Regardless of the meaning to the original owner, these seemingly random items make me feel somehow more connected to others in this often overwhelming world.

On to familiarity. After two evenings of trying new recipes that my family didn't particularly enjoy, I decided to cook a couple of standbys - roasted potatoes and carrots and Caramel Apple Pork Chops. As much as I love trying out new things and appreciate their patience in my doing so, I felt they deserved something comforting and familiar. Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Pork Chops

4 (3/4 inch) thick pork chops

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tart apples - peeled, cored, and sliced

3 tablespoons chopped pecans (optional)

1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Brush chops lightly with oil, and place in hot pan. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, or until evenly browned. Transfer to a warm dish, and keep warm in a low oven.

2. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add butter to skillet, and stir in brown sugar mixture and apples. Cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or just until apples are tender. Remove apples with a slotted spoon, and arrange on top of chops. Keep warm.

3. Continue cooking mixture in skillet, uncovered, until sauce thickens slightly. Spoon sauce over apples and chops. Sprinkle with pecans if desired.

Notes: This time I used 1/2 chops. I have used thicker chops in the past and found you will need to increase the cooking time. I also used olive oil on the chops and seasoned with salt and pepper before cooking. I had Fuji apples on hand and used those instead. Also, pecans are never optional for me, but a requirement.
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