…Inspiration, dinner and another vintage cookbook to add to my immense collection.
As my husband and I were returning to our city suburb outside Boston after another pleasant weekend in New Hampshire with my parents – we both decided we were not ready to re-enter reality. What could we do about it? We were already a strong 20 minutes south and turning back didn’t seem right. We were headed home with the intention of shopping for the weekly groceries at one of the stores just north of the border. A task neither of us really felt like doing. After spending time in idyllic southern NH with a side trip to the charming Portsmouth area; the last thing we felt like doing was traversing 25,000 square feet of fluorescent lit food.
It occurred to me that we were very near the infamous “Hollis Flea Market.” I immediately continued past the grocery store and drove back into lush, green, rural terrain. The allure of treasures yet to be found was strong. Plus it was a great way to stretch our legs and of course we were both craving a hot dog.
We walked around looking at trash, treasures and general oddities. At the last booth; two hours later, I finally hit pay dirt. A box of vintage cookbooks for $1 each. I found one calling out to me. Cook It Ahead by Elinore J. Marvel, published 1951 by Houghton Mifflin. This book was really a forward thinker of its time. The recipes were all designed by the author to have some or a portion of them made ahead so weeknight cooking and weekend entertaining could all be made easier. Apparently folks had too many things planned and not enough time to do it all – even in 1951! The best part about these books is one with an inscription or with notes in the margins. The handwriting is fun to figure out and you know someone has already done the test-driving of the recipe when the notes read: “reheats beautifully” on page 138, Carrots Amandine. (Yep that is how it was spelled.) I also consider the bookmark. A scrap of paper, a newspaper recipe or even the bent corner of the page is a sign of importance. The page it marks is most likely the last thing the previous owner made from this book. I love flipping through and traveling back in time when “Egg and Tomato Aspic” and “Roquefort Cheese Fluff” and “Braised Loin of Veal” were all the rage. I have yet to really make any of the recipes in these books I collect – I prefer to use them as entertainment, education and inspiration.
And there it was on page 79.
Baked ham and cider sauce. And another one on Page 94. Pork chops with apple and sweet potatoes. With a little nip to the NH air and pre-season football on TV there was no good reason for me not to cook something really delicious as that! We returned to our original destination of a faceless southern NH grocery store, inspired and no longer hungry. Everyone knows it is trouble to shop on an empty stomach!
I perused the pork offerings. Slim pickings and generic cuts. I am used to more variety in cuts and selections in Massachusetts; but I know what to expect when we choose on occasion to shop in NH. Good Yankee offerings. I finally settled on two 1 inch thick pork chops. Right size and right price. I really wanted a pork roast of some sort but they were all too expensive or enough to feed 10 people. And the hams were a little sad-looking.
I know pork chops aren’t usually the first choice for a braising method of cooking but I was envisioning searing the chops and then braising them on a bed of sliced onions and apples.
That is exactly what I did. I added some dry rubbed sage and a bit of herbs de’provence, salt, pepper and butter for richness. To add another layer of flavor I used some apple juice as the braising liquid. A couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce gave it an underlying savory flavor. I served it up with some mashed potatoes and some imaginary green vegetables. (Sorry Mom!)
In retrospect I should have added a couple of bay leaves. I also think after taking the photo (which really didn’t do the dish justice and the meat wasn’t really that pink) that I should have garnished with some fresh herbs to brighten everything.
As I think about this dish – I realized it could have gone in many directions. It would have been delicious if you substituted the sage and Herbs de’provence with allspice, cinnamon and a couple splashes of maple syrup. Served with turnips from the root cellar and it would have been New England winter and fall all wrapped up into one!
Or what about our new friend Chinese Five-Spice? Use that as the spice and maybe throw in some extra ginger as well. Served with fragrant rice, carrots and peas……yum!
This is why I can’t follow actual recipes very well – too confining. But I might just try that cider sauce once apple-picking season starts.