I was reading in the L.A. Weekly about Jonathan Gold's ten most battered cookbooks. And although he shares his top ten with us in a rather self-satisfied way, there is no denying he has quite a few gems in his top ten. In all honesty the few that I don't already own, I'm tempted to add to my collection, post haste.
Seeing Richard Olney's Simple French Cooking on the list filled me with pleasure. Simple French Cooking is one of the best French cookbooks around. I've had my copy for about fifteen years, and while it is unlikely that mine is as battered as Gold's, it is dog-eared and worn-out from frequent perusal and use. There was a point in my life when I'd carry it with me everywhere, simply to assure good reading at all times.
Olney brings to your kitchen the rustic cuisine of France. From hot onion omelets with vinegar to gratin of endives and bacon, to the more extreme, lambs' frivolities (that's testicles, folks) and calves' brains (Joseph, you should probably pick up a copy!), this essential French cook book truly teaches you French cooking.
One of the easier recipes that I have been preparing for years is Pork Chops and Apples in Mustard Sauce. It is a more sophisticated take on the classic American pork chop with a spoonful of applesauce. Beautifully browned pork chops are tucked into a bed of thinly sliced apples, and drizzled with white wine deglazed pan drippings. These are then cloaked in a thick mustard and heavy cream mixture.
Yes, the use of heavy cream is a bit decadent, but this recipe is the perfect reason to make an exception and allow a bit of extra fat into your life. The apples, mustard and cream form a luscious bed for the meaty chops.
One big recommendation -- use bone-in chops. Foolishly, I did not do so this last time. Big mistake! Meat -- especially pork -- is almost always more moist and more delicious when cooked on the bone. My boneless chops were just a hair overdone, and that is hugely disappointing when the preparation is so terrific.
I typically serve this over some sort of tiny pasta. I like the way the sauce coats the slippery noodles. This time around I served the chops with more vegetables and some roast potatoes -- also very good, but the amount of sauce produced sort of begs for a bed of something.
Pork Chops and Apples in Mustard Sauce
2 pounds apples, quartered, cored, peeled, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon butter
4 pork loin chops about 3/4 inch thick, pared of excess fat
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
About 1/3 cup Dijon mustard (to taste)
Spread the apples in a lightly buttered gratin dish (large enough to hold the chops placed side by side without forcing) and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the salted chops in a bit of butter over medium heat until nicely colored on each side, 7 or 8 minutes per side. Arrange the chops on the apples' surface, deglaze the pan with the white wine, reducing it by half, and dribble it over the surface.
Mix the cream and the mustard, adding the latter progressively and tasting. Salt lightly, pepper to taste, and pour the mixture over the chops and apples, shaking the dish gently to be certain the cream penetrates the bed of apples. Bake 15 minutes longer at the same temperature.