Making that leap from summer to fall is always a bit of a jolt. I dread the end of the seemingly endless variety of summer’s bounty that make up not only delicious, but easy and light meals for hot days. I wince at the thought of not having platters of vine ripened heirloom tomatoes–red, yellow and orange ones from my garden layered between discs of fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil, or fresh cobs of candy sweet white corn—to pop into a pot of boiling salted for mere minutes. Memories linger of warm evenings and outdoor grilling with meats sizzling and a rainbow of vegetables like strips of yellow and green zucchini, slices of purple eggplant and ruby red peppers absorbing the love of a hot grill. I’ll miss the simplicity of a “side” of freshly steamed petite French string beans with herbed butter, or the cool and refreshing finale of peaches and melons which need no other accompaniment on a hot summer eve. Oh, sweet, sweet summer don’t leave.
Despite this dejected outlook as warmer days come to an end there is actually much to look forward to. There is transition time often referred to as “Indian Summer” and it lets us down gently. There are still warm nights, albeit unpredictable, in late September which beckon us to sit outside and have a patio dinner. Even though mornings are darker and the sun sets earlier there are long afternoons of heat which continue to ripen summer vegetables on vines—tomatoes, green beans and squash become fully grown from the residual heat. Eggplants reluctant to ripen in the moderate summer heat suddenly grow into purple plumpness. Pumpkins begin to take over the garden sprawling to make room for their girth, and beautiful leafy trees bearing creamy fresh figs and crisp green apples are suddenly heavy with fruit. The natural scheme of things begins to fall into place slowly, and as we begin to feel a consistent chill in the air, leaves begin to fall, and we instinctively yearn for heartier fare. Before long thoughts of summer are a distant memory and have been replaced by cravings for what is to come– more robust meals. With the crisp scent of Fall undeniably in the air there is another great season of food and eating on its’ way.
One of my most favorite Fall fruits are apples –crisp, sweet, juicy and flavorful they stand alone with so much integrity. Yet they are truly versatile with a change of heart– ready to be baked, braised with meat, or sliced and fanned into lovely circles on pastry for a luscious dessert. This is a lovely composition of pork and apples fit for a cool Fall evening.
Normandy Pork Filet
- 4 pork loin fillets (approximately 3 lbs.) at room temperature
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 4 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 tart apples, cored and sliced (Pippins or Granny Smith)
- Calvados (French Apple Brandy)
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 3 cups chicken stock (or veal stock if you have it)
- ¾ cup cream
- 2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tart apples, sliced in discs and caramelized*
Dab pork fillets with a dry paper towel to absorb any moisture on the surface of the meat. Then season lightly by rubbing each side of each filet with a generous pinch or two of kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Place on a plate and set aside.
Place a large sauté pan on medium high heat and melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and heat with two tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil mixture is hot add the onions and sweat in the pan until they are translucent. Add apple slices and sauté until golden and soft. Remove the onions and apple slices from the pan and place in a bowl. Set aside.
With the sauté pan over medium high heat add the remaining butter and olive oil and heat until almost smoking. Add the pork and brown on all sides. Make sure not to crowd the pan. Carefully, add the Calvados and flame the meat. When the flame has died down sprinkle the flour over the meat and add the stock. Season lightly with salt and pepper and bring to a boil then reduce the temperature to low. Add the apples and onions to the pork and place a lid on the pan. Simmer the meat on low until tender about 35 -40 minutes. When the meat is tender remove it from the pan and place on a platter and keep warm in a very low oven. Strain the sauce and reduce until it is thick. Add cream, bring to a simmer and correct seasoning. Reduce heat. Slice the meat and drape with the sauce. Garnish with caramelized apples and finely chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
How to Caramelize Apples
Core and then slice apples into round discs about 1/8 inch thick.
Heat a small skillet on medium high and place about 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan. Heat until it is foaming and place the slices of apple in the hot butter. Sprinkle the tops lightly with a teaspoon or two of sugar. Adjust heat so the butter does not burn. Turn the apples over as they brown and sprinkle with another teaspoon of sugar over the slices and permit them to finish browning. Remove the apple slice when their surface is slightly crusty and light brown. Remove from the pan and drain on paper toweling. Use as a garnish immediately.