Creamy Pork Normande on a bed of scrummy sautéed potatoes:
Prep: 30 mins.
Cooking: 60 mins approx.
Serves: 4, but easy to stretch further if pork is cubed
Rating: 2: Easy, just a little long-winded
Whenever you think of the food of Normandy, you think of butter, Calvados, apples, Calvados, pork, closely followed by cream…. And Calvados, of course.
Oh, and did I mention Calvados?
Well, this rather scrummy and deceptively easy pork recipe uses no Calvados whatsoever (only due to the fact that I had none to hand – though you could have a splash in there somewhere if you should so wish), but that leaves you with the opportunity of drinking it later, should you have any, as a digestif. So, even with no Calvados and the cream replaced by crème fraiche, be ready for a taste sensation….
For four people, you will need:
For the pork:
- Copious access to the olive oil bottle (yes, I know that you could use all butter, but at least give lip service to matters of cholesterol….. but then the Normans don’t seem to suffer too much…. perhaps it’s the effect of the Calvados!)
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 4 large eating apples, cored and cut into thick rings
- 4 thick slices of loin of pork
- 3 fat cloves of garlic – or correspondingly more thin ones
- 2 large red onions
- Half litre dry cider (but get more as it’s a thirsty business…)
- 2 chicken stock cubes in a couple of mugs of hot water… with the foil removed, of course.
- 250g pot of crème fraiche
- 3 or 4 bay leaves (If you have them)
- Good handful of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped (or dried thyme)
- A bigger good handful of fresh flat-leaved parsley, roughly chopped (It is nice to have this. Dried parsley is such a let-down)
- Salt (I prefer coarsely ground sea salt)
For the potato dish:
- Olive oil
- 2 large red onions, roughly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- Half kilo FRESHLY BOILED new spuds (that means that you must have boiled them before you start doing the pork, of course…. don’t forget!), preferably whole baby ones……. preferably the variety of Charlotte, Exquisa or even Anya if you can get hold of them…..(you might have to grow your own Anya!)
- 200g lardons (see Those Ingredient Thingies), preferably smoked. (can easily be replaced by chopped up cooking bacon/streaky)
- More fresh thyme leaves (just buy a small growing pot to have enough for the two recipes)
- More flat-leaved parsley (just buy…….)
- (You will, of course, need to serve some veg with it all – don’t forget to do it. I used sautéed sugar snap peas, asparagus and fresh baby sweetcorn – lovely!).
What you do:
- Get your prep work done first, using small dishes to hold the prepared ingredients. Work cleanly and you’ll find that clearing up afterwards is much easier to do.
(Better still, get some other poor sod to do the cleaning up for you afterwards, whilst you enjoy a good well-earned slug of Calvados with y’feet up).
- Core (but don’t peel) the apples with a corer, or a normal potato peeler inserted and rotated round to remove the core, then cut into thick rings. The top and bottom rings should be roughly diced for use later on.
- Roughly slice the onions, then chop half of one of them as finely as you can.
- Peel the garlic (see Tricks’n’Tips for the easy way) and chop it fairly roughly.
- Splash olive oil into a thick bottomed frying pan, add a large knob of the butter and heat.
- Mix the two fats together and place the thickly-cut apple rings into the pan (do not drop them in; you must avoid splashing hot fat around… we don’t want hospital visits today, thank you very much). You may need to do this in batches to ensure good browning, by the way.
- Evenly sprinkle the sugar over all of the apple rings, on each side as they are turned. Keep an eye on the apples as they will easily blacken with the extra sugar – you don’t want ‘black’, just a lovely golden brown.
(You could do worse than to keep my father’s general culinary advice in mind…. “When they’re brown, they’re done”, he’d say to me very seriously, then, with the wink of an eye he’d add…… “When they’re black, they’re buggered!” It’s good advice, if a little unconventionally put.)
- Put them aside to keep warm for the plating-up stage.
- Add more oil to the pan and brown the pork slices on both sides, turning them several times.
- Put them aside on a plate somewhere – you’ll use them quite soon.
- Turn the heat down and put the onions and garlic into the pan to gently soften for a few minutes.
- You may need to use a larger pan, so be ready to use the biggest pan you have…..
- EITHER return the pork to the pan, then add the diced apple and the cider and the stock, thyme and bay leaves…..
- OR chuck ‘em all into that big pan you’ve just had to borrow from the rather gorgeous young single mum down the road who you’ve been looking for an excuse to talk to for weeks! RESULT!
- Either way, cook the pork through for 10-15 minutes, simmering gently.
- Heat olive oil and butter in a non-stick pan, add the onions and garlic and soften for a few minutes.
- Add the lardons (chopped bacon to you’n’me), potatoes and thyme. Cook until the bacon is nice’n’crispy and the spuds are scrummy.
- Remove the pork from the gigantic pan that you borrowed, turn up the heat and reduce the liquid (see Tricks’n’Tips, but basically, boil it so it steams [so you’d better open a window or it’ll be like a sauna in there] and loses volume, concentrating the flavours) for a while.
- Stir in the whole pot of crème fraiche, then the roughly chopped parsley and heat through for a couple of minutes. Taste and season as necessary. Remember that the bacon will be salty in the spuds.
- Heat the apple rings through in another pan.
- Either plate up individually as you wish, or put the spuds onto a big oval platter (warmed, of course) and place the pork, with apple rings on top, on the spuds and spoon the sauce and all its bits over the top of the lot.
- There’s bound to be some thyme and parsley left somewhere, so sprinkle that on top to make it look posh.
- Be ready for the praise. Preen appreciably when it comes, but be modest (well, not TOO modest!).
(…..and enjoy that smug feeling because you’ve now got a date with that gorgeous newly-divorced young single mum down the road……..)