Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An (Organic) Apple A Day

After a week of summer-like almost 80 degree weather, it's cool and foggy today; perfect day to put something wonderful into the slow cooker.  

I looked into the fridge and found Honey Crisp Apples, sweet Maui onions, and a pork roast. I don't know about you, but I love the first bite of a crisp, sweet/tart apple, and the organic Honey Crisps we have been seeing in the markets here have been amazing.  They were perfect for this dish that Dr. C. and I had when we visited Normandy, France on a vacation.

   After 3 days of touring following in the footsteps of allied troops, we sat down to a delicious meal that used the bounty from this area.  There are no vineyards in Normandy; the cold and wind from the Atlantic are not conducive for growing grapes, but apples grow in abundance; there is cider in every form, and Calvados an apple brandy is made here. This is a stunningly beautiful area of France, rich in history and pride.  The people are delightful and happy to help you (hear that Parisians??) Although one of our tour guides told us that one in 4 people in Normandy is from the UK! 

This dish is simple to put together, you can make it in a Dutch oven or the slow cooker, either way it's a terrific dinner to serve any night of the week, and even dresses up for company.  

Braised Pork Loin with Apples

Serves 6

2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
One 3-pound pork loin roast
One or two large sweet yellow onions,thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 large or 4 medium organic sweet/tart apples for cooking (I used Honey Crisp, because that's what was in the fridge, but Galas, Fuji, Braeburn or even Granny Smiths' in a pinch--no red or golden delicious)
2 teaspoons soup base or demi-glace (see note)
1 cup organic apple juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon of water

1/2 cup heavy cream (optional but oh, so good!)
Heat the oil in a skillet.  While the oil is heating, mix together the sugar and mustard.  

Score the fat side of the roast, and smear the mustard mixture over the pork.  

Brown the roast on all sides, watching carefully so that you don't burn the sugar. 

Add the onions and thyme to the pan, and saute for 3 minutes, until softened.  

Transfer the onions to the slow cooker, top with the apples, soup base and apple juices, stirring to blend.  

Set the pork on top fat side down, and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 8 hours.  
Remove the pork from the pan, and cover loosely with aluminum foil.  Skim any excess fat from the top of the sauce, bring the sauce to a boil.   Add the cornstarch mixture, and bring back to a boil, until thickened and glossy.  Stir in the cream, and bring to serving temperature.
When the pork has rested for 10 minutes, thinly slice, serve with the sauce over buttered noodles, or mashed potatoes.  

Slow Cooker Savvy:
Most meats will give off a lot of liquid when slow cooked; using less liquid to begin with and using a soup base such as Better Than Bouillon Superior Touch, or a demi-glace like More Than Gourmet or Provimi, concentrates the flavor of the sauce and gives you a nicely rounded flavor. 

I'm posting a bit less this week due to a few obligations that I have but hope to be back up to speed next week.  

Everyone asks what I do with the leftovers; I store them in small microwaveable containers either in the fridge to give to friends and neighbors, or freeze them for Dr. C. when I'm on the road.  No, I'm that that uber-organized that I have a freezer filing system----my freezer is a disorganized mess, but I do label everything so there are no freezer surprises! 

Enjoy your day! 

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