Flavors of Fall

Not only is the weather about to change but, with it, the way we’re cooking, from using fresh fall produce to creating comforting rustic meals.

Fall will soon be in the air—those refreshing mornings and cool evenings we Ocalans look forward to all summer. And those first autumn breezes put me in the mood for some of my favorite apple recipes. Since October is National Pork Month, also dubbed “Porktober,” I think the perfect autumn dinner is Rosemary Pork Chops with Savory Apples and Onions.

In this dish, perfectly seared pork chops are topped with a delightfully fragrant cider pan sauce seasoned with cinnamon and allspice, and served with tender, butter sautéed apples and onions.

I am fortunate to get my pork sourced locally from a 4-H hog, so I know what it was fed, and I believe knowing the source is especially important when it comes to pork.

If you think pork chops are dry, it’s most likely because they are so easy to overcook. A few years back, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lowered the cooking temperature recommendation to 145 degrees, which is what most restaurants were already doing. According to the USDA, a little pink is just fine, and trust me, your meat will be so much better tasting.

To add even more moisture, I brine the meat overnight in apple juice and brown sugar, with salt and pepper, which also adds extra flavor. The pan sauce, which is poured over the seared chops, is the highlight of this dish. It’s made with chicken broth for depth of flavor, apple cider for sweetness and Dijon mustard for zip, plus fresh herbs and flavorful autumn spices.

I pair them with one of my favorite autumn vegetable dishes: Sweet and Spicy Maple Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts. These nutrient-packed veggies are the perfect complement to pork chops if you want to bring the heat. Accented with crispy bacon, this savory dish is perfect as a side but can also be served as a main course. It’s also easy to make this dish vegetarian; just leave out the bacon.

While it’s easy to fill up on hearty pork and fall vegetables, don’t forget to save room for dessert—this autumn meal isn’t complete without my “can’t keep it in the house” Apple Crumb Pie, a popular gluten-free recipe that I’ve been making for more than 20 years. It forms a wonderful caramel sauce underneath as it bakes, filling your kitchen with the sweet smells of autumn.

Happy Fall, y’all!

Rosemary Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

4 boneless pork chops, 3/4-inch thick (5 ounces)
2 medium sweet, crisp apples (such as Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji or Golden Delicious), thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Let pork chops rest at room temperature for 10 minutes while preparing ingredients. › In a liquid measuring cup or bowl, whisk together broth, apple cider, mustard, cinnamon and allspice, then set aside. › Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. › Season both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper (about 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper total). › Once oil is simmering, add pork chops. › Sear until browned on bottom, about 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and continue to cook until center registers 145 degrees, or about 4 to 5 minutes longer. › Transfer pork chops to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. › Melt butter in the same skillet over medium heat. › Add in apples, onions, sage and rosemary and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. › Pour in broth mixture and season with a little salt as desired. › Let simmer until reduced by about half, stirring occasionally, about 2 to 3 minutes. (For a slightly thicker sauce, whisk 1 teaspoon cornstarch in with the broth before adding to skillet and stir frequently.) › Return pork chops to pan and spoon mixture over chops. 

Serve warm.

Spicy Maple Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon

1 pound Brussels sprouts, with stems and outer leaves removed and cut in half
5 cups butternut squash, cubed
4 to 5 ounces (four to six slices) uncooked bacon (pork or turkey)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup toasted pecan halves, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup gorgonzola crumbles, blue cheese crumbles or goat cheese crumbles
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Freshly ground salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. › Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out Brussels sprouts and butternut squash. › In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon and cloves until well combined. › Pour over the Brussels sprouts and butternut squash. › Season generously with salt and pepper. › Use clean hands to toss together, then spread out evenly on the baking sheet. › Roast in the oven for 15 minutes then flip and roast for an additional 15 minutes until Brussels sprouts turn a slight golden brown and squash is fork tender. › While the veggies are roasting, cook bacon according to directions on the package. › Once crispy, transfer bacon onto a paper towel and pat away the grease, then chop and set aside. › Place pecans in a small pan over medium heat and stir until toasted and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes (they are done as soon as they start looking darker and smell toasty). › Immediately remove the pecans from the pan to a bowl or paper towel to prevent burning. › Once the butternut squash and Brussels sprouts are done, transfer them to a large serving bowl and gently fold in chopped bacon, dried cranberries and toasted pecans. › Garnish with your choice of crumbled cheese.

Apple Crumb Pie

6 Granny Smith apples, medium size, pared, cored and sliced
1 15-ounce package of refrigerator or frozen pie crust (I use gluten-free frozen)
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons King Arthur All-Purpose Flour (I use gluten-free)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Topping:
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 425. › Prepare pie crust according to package directions. › In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. › Add sliced apples and toss until well coated. › Spoon apple mixture into pie crust. › To make topping, in a small bowl combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter. › Using a pastry cutter or fork, combine butter into sugar and flour until mixture resembles small crumbs. › Sprinkle over apple filling. › Bake 40 to 45 minutes, until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown. (If edge of crust looks like it might become too brown, cover with foil or a pie crust ring.) › Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

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