Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Raising My Standards

I can't help it. I'm living in one of the best culinary cities in the country, but I crave the food I ate in Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago. I feel like an ungrateful child, the one who wants the proton pack instead of the shiny red fire engine (you know who you are!!!). When I was in Minny, I had a delicious huevos rancheros at Grand Cafe - melty cheese between two fresh tortillas topped with braised pork, black beans, and a mole sauce. Oh yeah, and some huevos. I had amazing Thai food at King and I Thai - flaky curry puffs, red curry with chicken, a shrimp pad Thai. And where else can you get Somali food at a wedding? Savory sambusas with a spicy green chutney, chicken fantastic (that's what it's called), and vegetable curry.

Dining in Minneapolis seriously raises my standards for home cooking. But traveling means my home cooking has suffered. I ran out of food the other day, and while my zucchini soup was tasty it was not enough to satisfy and left me stuffing my face with cheese and crackers. My lentil salad was lackluster. When I finally made it to the store and refreshed my fridge, I decided to make a simple but incredibly satisfying pork chop with apple compote. A good dinner makes a huge difference in how I feel. I stop craving the great food in Minneapolis, I stop missing my old home. I feel a little better about where I am.

Pork Chops with Apple Compote
serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 center cut pork chops (thick cut)
salt and pepper
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 cup white wine
2 apples, sweet and crisp such as Gala, peeled and diced
1 cup chicken broth
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

I like to use thick cut pork chops because they don't get overcooked as easily. Season pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides. Add olive oil to large skillet and swirl to coat. Add pork chops before heating pan. Heating the pork chops more slowly allows them to retain more moisture and not dry out. They lose a lot of moisture when you add them to a hot pan. Heat pan on medium high heat. Cook chops until browned, about six minutes on each side, or more if very thick. Remove to a plate and keep warm in oven. You may need to cook chops in two batches.

While chops are cooking, peel and dice the apples and mince the shallot. After removing the pork chops, add shallot to pan and stir until brown. Add white wine to deglaze the pan, stirring to loosen the brown bits. Add chicken broth and diced apples. Simmer apples for ten minutes, until tender. Stir in balsamic vinegar and any accumulated juices from pork chops. Season with salt to taste.

Serve pork chops with apple compote on top. If pork chops have cooled off, return them to pan with apples for one minute to heat before serving.

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