pork

Applejack-Braised Pork

It’s harvest time across America. My favorite childhood memories of the farm involved riding in a combine during corn harvest. It’s mesmerizing. I hit the jackpot last week at work, accompanying a journalist on a harvest ride-along.

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When you grow up in an ag family, fall is just as synonymous with harvest as picking apples or watching football. And when the weather turns chilly, I turn to slow cooking.

This pork goes great with so many things — sauteed apples, root vegetables, roasted cauliflower, or polenta, to name a few.

Happy harvest!

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Applejack-Braised Pork Loin
Serves about 5

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pound boneless pork loin
Salt and pepper
2 shallots, chopped
1/3 cup Applejack or other apple brandy
1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth (or try apple cider)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a 1.5 quart Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add oil. Season pork with salt and pepper. Sear pork on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. (If necessary, cut meat into 3-4 pieces and work in batches.) Place meat on a platter.

Add shallots to pan; cook 3-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Remove from heat. Deglaze the pan by pouring in brandy and scraping up the browned bits. Return pan to heat. Add pork and stock. The meat will not be completely submerged. Heat to a simmer.

Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Cook until fork-tender, about 2 hours, turning meat halfway through. Place meat on a platter. Let sit for 10 minutes. Shred with a fork. Spoon pan sauce over meat.

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Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust

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Ready to take your pie-making to the next level? Game on, kids.

This pork and apple pie is a show-stopper, but really not all that difficult. The flavors and textures are really fantastic together. If you don’t like sage — which personally is not my favorite — feel free to omit it, and you’ll still have a really flavorful dish.

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This is a basic butter pie crust, with some cheese folded in. Get the butter really cold (try putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes after you cube it) and don’t let the dough get too warm.

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When choosing apples, go for larger fruit in varieties that will hold their shape, like Granny Smith or Pink Lady. Slice them thinly for easy arranging.

Serve the pie warm or at room temperature, and store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust

Adapted from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook

Serves 8-10

2 1/2 cups (350 g) flour, plus a little more
2 tsp dried sage, finely crumbled (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3 oz (85 g) sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
6-8 TBS ice water
2 pounds firm apples (4-6 large) – try Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Jazz, Golden Delicious, or other firm fruit
2 TBS vegetable oil (or other cooking oil of your choice)
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground pork (15-17% fat)
1 TBS firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 TBS plain breadcrumbs
1 egg blended with 1 TBS water
Fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sage, and salt until well-combined. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour mixture and use your fingers to work them in until the mixture looks like cornmeal with some pea-sized bits of butter remaining. Stir in the cheese with a fork. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and stir with a fork until the dough begins to come together. If needed, add an additional tablespoon or two of ice water. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead three times. Gather the dough into a ball, then divide into two portions, making one slightly larger than the other. Press each portion down into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Core and thinly slice the apples to no more than 1/4″ thickness (no need to peel). In a skillet over medium-low heat, cook the apples without any oil, stirring gently, until they just begin to soften, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a dish and set aside. Add oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add pork, brown sugar, salt, and spices. Cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat, until it is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let the meat mixture cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a food processor. Add the breadcrumbs and pulse five times until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand. Set aside.

Unwrap the larger disk of dough and put it in the center of a large sheet of wax or parchment paper. Cover with another piece of wax or parchment paper. Working from the center, roll outward to a 13” circle. Peel off the top piece of parchment and transfer the dough to a pie plate, peeled side down. Peel off the remaining parchment and press the crust into the sides of a 9” deep-dish pie plate. Peel off the remaining parchment and press the crust into the sides of the pie plate, draping any excess over the edge. Repeat the process with the smaller disk, making an 11″ circle. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and set a rack to the second to bottom position. Pour the meat mixture into the bottom crust and gently smooth the top with a spatula. Arrange the cooked apple slices over the meat, pressing down to make the whole construction as smooth and neat as possible. Peel the top sheet of parchment off the top crust. Transfer to the pie, then peel off the remaining parchment. Using a sharp knife, make two 3” slashes in the crust to allow steam to escape. Fold the edges of the bottom crust up over the top crust and crimp the edges to seal. Brush the crust with the egg wash and decorate with sage leaves, if desired.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake until the crust is golden brown, 25-35 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool 25 minutes before serving.

Pork Tenderloin with Date-Cilantro Relish

Pork tenderloin is a go-to for weeknight dinners — quick, lean, and versatile, and not a lot of leftovers (important when you’re cooking for 1 or 2 and get  bored easily).

Dates are something new for me, and after a few bites adjusting to the texture, this recipe won me over. My grocery store carries dates in bulk, allowing me to buy just the quantity I needed.

Serve the pork with green vegetables, and if you want a starch, try rice, potatoes, or polenta (sweet potatoes or winter squash will be overwhelmingly sweet).

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Pork Tenderloin with Date-Cilantro Relish

From Bon Appetit

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pork tenderloin (about 1½ lb.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup Medjool dates (about 4 oz.), cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus leaves for serving

Preheat oven to 425°. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, 6–8 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and cook pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 140°, 10–15 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing; set aside pan drippings.

Toss dates, orange juice, reserved pan drippings, 3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Spoon relish over pork and top with cilantro leaves.