When you've been cooking as long as I have, sometimes it's hard to get inspired about one. more. meal. It can seem like a forced march when inspiration is lacking. Nothing new about pork chops with thyme, grilled corn and broccoli. Same old, same old.
Except when a friend, in this case Cassie of Garden Girl from whom I get my free-range eggs, gives you an unexpected gift of old-fashioned Gravenstein apples from her own tree. One rarely sees these old varieties in the supermarkets - they long ago decided on Pink Lady, Fuji, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith, easy keepers and predictable sellers. I love those varieties, too, but it's fun to try different ones from time to time.
When I lived in western New York state, apple harvest was a wonderful time of year. The cool springs and buffering effect of the Great Lakes make it a splendid fruit growing region. Macintosh came first, followed by all sorts of other varieties, Rome Beauty and Cortland, Jonathan and Braeburn, to name just a few. Everyone had their favorite varieties for canning, pies, cider, and eating out of hand, and would discuss them with serious intent, comparing and proselytizing, the way Californians discuss restaurants.
All the orchards sold bushels and pecks of apples for sauce and baking. I used to make my applesauce with apple pie flavors and give it as Thanksgiving gifts.
Many orchards also ran presses during the harvest season - you have never tasted cider so good. It was cloudy and rich with fresh apple taste. On a crisp fall day, nothing tastes better. It is the custom there to pair the cider with an old fashioned raised donut, heavy and sweet. I ate one each year, just for the sake of tradition, but our preference was really just for the cider.
Returning from memory lane, for our pork chops I peeled a couple of Cassie's small Gravensteins and softened them in a buttered pan with some onion, the added a dollop of Dijon-style honey mustard. Mixed that around, covered, and let it cook for five minutes or so. The Gravensteins soften immediately, so fast that clearly they'd make great applesauce; the onions took slightly longer. But, overall, it was a quick and easy way to dress up some plain. old. porkchops.
With some of Cassie's ripe tomato sliced on the plate, it made for a colorful and inspirational dinner, and some mellow memories of an earlier life.