-Jenny from Rancho Park
Somewhere in America there is a woman standing in front of her non-grease-splattered stove, music bleating cheerfully from her iPod dock, humming along as she carefully manages whatever is in her medium-sized pot. No one talks to her. She is the cook. She is in her bliss.
Sadly, that woman is not me. I’ve got stuff going on at dinner time. People asking me questions about the location of their belongings, as if I had been the one to shove their camera/homework/large stuffed spotted owl under a chair and am holding out on the whereabouts for sport. Someone calling, usually my mother, whom I believe sets an alarm timed for the dinner hour. Someone with an I.M. about something someone did at work that they seem to suspect will enrage me.
I get distracted. I make messes.
As such, I have two choices: jettison well-meaning recipes that take just a tad too much time and/or concentration during the mid-week chaos, or adjust them. I chose to do the latter with Loves Food Loves to Eat’s Apple Ginger Pork Loin with Caramel Sauce. This recipe contains the familiar, comforting blend of pork, apples and cider, with a twist of sugar and soy sauce that gives it both a richness and zing that distinguishes it from other versions I have made.
If you want to make this just as the lover of eating has written it, you’ll have an enjoyable meal, although I would note that she does not fully explain a key step in the caramel-making process, which I’ll attempt to elucidate in a moment.
However, you can also take some short cuts that, in my view, make for an equally-satisfying dish, and keep us all in the spirit of food52, where recipe tweaking is our community’s equivalent of back-rub trade-offs!
First, let’s deal with the cut. Yes, you can buy a pork loin and butterfly it and put the sautéed apples (which by the way you should peel, but you figured that out on your own, right?) in the center and roll it all up, as instructed. Or, you can buy some boneless pork loin chops, which I pick up every week because they cook quickly and are cheap, and place the apple mix we are about to discuss on top of them.
In my version, you will sauté the apples with ginger and scallions, as instructed, and then add cider (I had sparking cider on hand, and it worked really well; I am even going to go with the word better, but if all you have is plain cider, rock on) as well as the stock and cook it all up. You may reserve the liquid, as the recipe requests, but I chose to dump it with the apples on the chops, a twist on spreading it in the center of the loin. Now stick it in the oven.
While that is cooking, go ahead and caramelize your two sugars by placing them in a non-stick pan, setting it over a moderate flame and swirling the pan as it liquefies.
This is the part where you really need to pay attention. If your significant other is hounding you, tell him or her that there is nothing you’d find sexier than a recap of the congressional reconciliation of the health care bill, and he or she will go racing toward a Google search for roughly the length of time it takes to get a nice brown caramel going. Please don’t burn it. You’ll have to start over, you’ll mess up your pan and the next step will be yelling at people who are not responsible for this.
To your lovely golden caramel now add your water, soy sauce, cider vinegar and a 1/2 cup more of the cider. If you have reserved the liquid from the apples now is the time to add that too. Take care, as it will bubble and steam and the caramel will harden briefly, but you just whisk away. (You can now add the butter; I just forgot to but I didn’t miss it.)
Let this mixture gently boil, then turn it to a very low simmer, whisking now and then, until your chops are done, about 15-20 minutes. Put a chop with apples on a plate, spoon some of your sauce over it all, and start eating. If you’ve been good, you remembered to make some cous cous and maybe a nice salad to go with it. Eat. Clean up. Move on.
Serves 4 to 6
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now