Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CHOP SHOP

Like most women, I like to shop. I can be driving down the road to some rendezvous, but if I pass certain types of boutique shops, I’m inclined to make a stop whether I truly have the time or not.

Now, I’m not talking about boutique in the classic shopping terms of clothing or shoes. I’m talking about specialty food shops.

Farm markets, butcher shops, smoke houses, bakeries and candy stores all have some strange attraction I find difficult to resist. Entire days have been spent in the pursuit of shoe shopping or clothes shopping with me not making a single purchase. But if I happen to be driving down a country road and see a stand set up that sells honey or eggs or whatever, my car is set to respond immediately. My car can often be found hanging out in butcher shop parking lots while I am inside ogling over the array of fresh meats and fowl. And my pantry is filled with products from little known local purveyors like local maple syrup, wildflower honey, jams and jellies.  I've brought home many gems like this from my travels around the area and surrounding states.

Photo from bloggang.com
One of the best places to hang out if you have an interest in food is West Point Market. This store is like a mini-shopping mall for me – bakery, candy store, butcher case, wine shop, cheese section, seafood case and fresh produce – all under one roof. Their section of canned goods has shrunk dramatically in the past couple of years while their selection of freshly prepared heat-and-eat foods has expanded, which is quite a sign of the times. The Market is always entertaining and always wonderful.

This past weekend I was driving down West Exchange Street and since I was “so” close, drove on up to West Point for a stroll down the aisles. Like a kid in a candy store I stopped to sniff (and taste) the wine selections for the day. A few steps later a dazzling array of cheeses were on display in the brightly lit cases with a few selections on the counter for sampling (I chose the Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar and a small wedge of my favorite Cambozola). Moving on I made mental notes of some of the more intriguing prepared foods giving myself ideas for upcoming meals such as asparagus quiche and stuffed cabbages. Moving on again, I had a quick sample of their famous brownies in the bakery section and still managed to find me with nothing in my cart except the cheese.

The bone-in loin pork chop had my name
on it when I found it at the store.

Then, I found myself at a dead stop in front of the meat case.

One very nice thing about shopping at a place like this is that they seldom snigger when I ask for a single pork chop or one chicken breast or one sausage link. Which I did. The pork chops were looking especially attractive and they all looked so wonderful there was no passing by without a purchase for tonight’s dinner. 

The inspiration for this recipe came from an old Bon Apetit magazine that I had been browsing through last week. Knowing that today’s pork can be difficult to deal with because it’s bred to be so lean, this method of cooking promised the best choice to coax out a tender, juicy pork chop and choosing a chop with the bone in also allows for more flavor.  While this may sound a bit like a fall menu due to the sweet potato and apple, there isn't a huge choice of new spring vegetables yet in the markets, but these are still readily available at any market. 

PORK CHOP WITH APPLE AND SWEET POTOTES

Use a mandolin to slice your potatoes if you
have one, it ensures even slices.

Make a dry rub of 1 tbls. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. chili powder, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper to coat the chops with before browning. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the remaining ingredients (no more than 10 minutes.)

1 6-oz. 3/4-inch-thick bone-in pork chops
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium sized red-skinned sweet potato (yam), peeled, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 large unpeeled apple, cored, thickly sliced
3 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or apple cider

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork; sauté until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer pork to plate.
Add potato and shallot to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium; sauté until onion is golden, about 7 minutes.

Mix in apple, sage, cinnamon and chili powder; season with salt and pepper. Nestle pork among vegetables. Pour in broth; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until pork and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

The chops are tender and juicy, sweet with a hint of heat from the chili powder.  Tonight I opened a bottle of local Britenbach Red Festival wine that I picked up in Amish country a month or so ago. 

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