Every fall, I find myself shifting away from the tomato-intensive summer garden dinners and looking for something more “fall-ish”, but that still ticks the boxes for easy, fresh, and fruity. September in MN brings some falling leaves and color shifts, but the temperatures remain pretty warm, just to remind you that summer may not be done roasting us for the year just yet. Which means all the lovely stews and braises and roasts of fall really must wait for October chills before I break them out. But I want to eat fall food NOW! So what’s a girl to do? I word: broiler.
A funny aside. For the first 2 years we had our stove, I truly (and somewhat irately) believed that some dumb quack had made a stove without a broiler. There was no broil element in the oven, and, while there was a “Broil” button on the keypad, the manual stated “Not all features may be included with your model”, and then didn’t have any diagrams of where the broiler would be if it WERE included. I ask you, what gives?! It wasn’t until we were attending a party at a friend’s house and someone stuck a tray of hors d’oeuvres in the bottom drawer to melt the cheese that it dawned on me. You see, I grew up with an electric stove, so that drawer was dedicated cookie sheet storage, and I’d been using it as such on my own (gas) stove. Duh! Turns out we had a broiler all along…sigh.
So, the broiler. The magical cook-anything-before-you-heat-the-house drawer. It’s my solution to wanting tasty fall foods when it’s still just a smidge too hot out to fire up the oven or slave over the stove. One dish I’ve been making constantly (as in, multiple times per week, which if you know me, you know is totally out of character!) is broiled pork chops with apple-port sauce and sauteed sage squash bits. It’s delicious. It’s low maintenance (seriously, you stir the sauce a few times, cut up & saute a squash, and broil chops…what’s not to love!?
Broiled Pork Chops in Apple Port Sauce
- 4 pork chops, at least 1-inch thick, bone-in or bone-less is fine
- 2 large mackintosh apples
- 1 cup chicken broth or water
- 1/2 cup cooking port*
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- salt & pepper to taste
- Season chops with salt and pepper.
- Core both apples. Chop one apple very finely. Slice the other into 8 equal rings. Set aside.
- In a large skillet (12″ is a good size), combine remaining ingredients with diced apples. Stir briefly, then let simmer down over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, till most liquid is gone and you have what looks like chunky apple sauce. Season to taste.
- While sauce simmers, pop pork chops onto a broiler pan. Scatter apple rings around chops and broil on high for 5 minutes. Flip everything over and broil an additional 3 minutes, till chops are cooked through and apple rings are lightly browned. If pork chops are bone-in, remove apples and cook a couple minutes longer if needed.
- Plate & serve, because dinner just cooked itself while you stood around stirring!
*And by cooking port, I don’t mean grocery store “cooking wine”…Cook with something you would drink, but that doesn’t cost an arm & a leg to replace.
A great, easy side dish – before you start on the chops & sauce, peel and dice a small butternut squash (1/2″ cubes). In a 12” skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add squash and sprinkle with dried sage (or throw in 3-4 leaves fresh if you have it). Toss to combine, then spread squash in a single layer. Partially cover and cook over medium low heat for 20 minutes. Do not stir. Do not disturb. The bottoms will caramelize (yum!). About the time your chops are done, you squash will be done! Season with salt & pepper to taste.