Pork Chops with Maple Syrup and Balsamic Vinegar with Roasted Squash, Mashed Potatoes and Apple Cornmeal Cake

by Kristin on October 3, 2009

I was reading an article recently in the New York Times about signature dishes in restaurants, which was more or less lamenting the fact that popular dishes need to be made ad infinitum to keep customers happy. It reminded me of a recipe for Smokies in The Eden Cookbook, where the introduction to the recipe says, “This dish, one of my favourites, was on the first menu in Eden. When I changed the menu after three months, I took this off. It led to chaos. Two customers walked out, as they had come specifically for the Smokies, and I received numerous phone calls … I learned a valuable lesson — give your customers what they want.”

One of the recipes the article singled out was this one for pork chops, developed by Matthew Kenney (and wouldn’t you know it, chicken Marbella got a mention too). I can see why it would be a popular restaurant dish — how can you go wrong with a combination of maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, candied pecans and ginger? It sounds exotic enough that you wouldn’t necessarily think of making it yourself at home, but it’s incredibly easy and tasty enough to serve for company. I made it for my father‐in‐law last weekend, who happily offered to eat the extra chop that was left over.

This is a great menu for an autumn dinner party, though if you think plain mashed potatoes would be too, well, plain for company, you could gussy them up by adding in some chopped fresh parsley and a couple tablespoons of wholegrain mustard.

Pork Chops with Maple Syrup and Balsamic Vinegar
from The New York Times

Serves 4

3/4 cup (175 ml) maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (50 g) pecans
4 x 1 1/4‐inch‐thick pork chops
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 green apples, cored
1/4 cup (50 g) finely chopped candied ginger

Preheat a broiler or light a charcoal grill.

In a small nonreactive bowl, whisk together the syrup, vinegar, sugar and cinnamon.

Place a small pan over a medium heat. Add the pecans and about 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup sauce and cook for a few minutes, until the nuts are glazed and fragrant. Transfer the nuts to a plate and spread them out to cool. Transfer the cooled nuts to a cutting board, chop roughly and set aside.

Season the pork chops liberally with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. When the broiler is hot, or the coals are covered with gray ash and you can hold your hand 5 inches above them for only 1 to 2 seconds, broil or grill the meat for approximately 7 minutes per side. Brush with some of the remaining maple glaze every 2 or 3 minutes, turning them frequently to prevent the sugar from burning.

When the chops are cooked, remove from the broiler or grill and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, slice the cored apples into thick rounds, drizzle with olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper and place on the broiler pan or grill until tender when pierced with a fork. These, too, should be brushed with the maple glaze and turned frequently.

Serve the chops with the apple slices, sprinkled with the pecans and candied ginger.

***

roasted squash with pecans and blue cheese

Butternut Squash with Pecans and Blue Cheese
adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

Serves 6 to 8

4 lb 8 oz (2 kg) butternut squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 oz (110g) pecans
4 oz (110 g) Roquefort, or other blue cheese, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Peel and halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into 1‐inch cubes (you don’t need to be precise, just keep the pieces uniformly small). Place the squash in a roasting tin or casserole dish and drizzle with the oil. Strip about 4 sprigs of thyme of their leaves (or use dried thyme) and sprinkle over the butternut squash. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender.

Once out of the oven, transfer the squash to a serving bowl. Scatter over the pecans and crumble over the cheese, stirring everything together gently. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. To serve, tear the remaining sprigs of thyme into small pieces and sprinkle over the top of the butternut squash mixture.

***

upside-down apple cornmeal cake

Upside‐down Apple Cornmeal Cake

Serves 8

for the brandy‐soaked raisins:
1/2 cup (80 g) raisins
1/4 cup (60 ml) brandy

for the apple topping:
2 or 3 large Gala or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and quartered
4 tablespoons (60 g) unsalted butter
2/3 cup (120 g) brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

for the cake:
1 1/4 cups (150 g) all‐purpose flour
3/4 cup (170 g) fine cornmeal
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (110 g) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (150 g) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk
1/3 cup (60 g) pecans, roughly chopped

Soak the raisins in the brandy for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours before you bake the cake.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

To make the apple topping, cut each apple quarter lengthwise into 3 wedges. Melt the butter in a 10‐inch cast iron or nonstick skillet over a medium heat. Add in the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and add the apples, gently stirring to coat. Using a tongs or fork, neatly arrange the apple slices in circles in the sugar mixture, starting at the outer edge and working your way to the center of the pan.  (You might not need all the apple slices.)

To make the cake, whisk the flour, cornmeal, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. Using a handheld mixer or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Add in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions (beginning and ending with the dry ingredients). Gently fold in the chopped pecans and raisins, along with any brandy still left in the bowl.

Gently pour the batter evenly on top of the fruit in the skillet, being careful not to move the apple slices too much. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until the center of the cake springs back lightly when touched. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes in the skillet before carefully inverting it onto a plate.

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