Search This Blog

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pretty Food

The reminiscing lately about my grandmothers ability, or lack of ability, to cook has had  me aching for some of the things she could cook well.  So, last night when most people were probably grilling out or having dinner at an outdoor restaurant patio, I was craving smothered pork chops and fried corn.  Down and dirty country food. Soul food. Food for the soul.
I wanted a good dressing or stuffing as a bed for the slow braised smothered  pork chops, so I pulled all of my bread scraps out of the freezer, the ones I always intend to save for Thanksgiving, but never do.  I had ciabatta, baguettes, biscuits, cornbread, sandwich bread, and even some raisin bread.  I tore them into cubes and toasted them in the oven to dry out.
I satueed sweet sausage, diced Granny Smith apples, onions, celery, and garlic until tender and mixed them with the dried bread.  After seasoning with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, and fresh sage, I moistened the whole shooting match with chicken stock and beaten eggs.

After covering the bottom of a dutch oven with the dressing, I topped it with seasoned and floured  panfried pork chops and thick sliced white sweet onions. Once the pork chops were panfried in a cast iron skillet, I deglazed the residual floury pork fat with water to pick up the flavor bits from the bottom of the pan and added a chicken stock slurry to create a voluptuous pan sauce. I poured this over the onion,  pork chop, and dressing layers, covered it tightly, and let it braise in the oven for 3 hours.  3 long very aromatic hours.

Fried corn.  Pretty basic. I shucked the corn, cleaned  the silk with my fathers silk brush, cut off the kernels, and scraped the cob to milk it.  After sauteing  thick cut slab bacon until crispy and fat rendered, I added the corn, seasoned it liberally, and fried it in the bacon fat.

I plated the falling apart chops on top of the dressing, spooned generous country-portion amounts of sauce over all of it, and sprinkled it fresh minced parsley as a wink and a nod to healthy eating.  Fried corn to the side with buttered dinner rolls to sop.

The aroma alone took me back in time.  Jolted memories. Like being back at an old-time church pot-luck dinner with food  lined up and down on a flat bed wooden wagon hauled in by a tractor and parked right by the church cemetary on a hot summer day.

The pork chops had almost disintegrated, the way they were supposed to, but with enough texture and bite to retain their integrity.  Moist and soft.  The dressing, having soaked up the pork fat drippings and gravy,  had caramelized underneath from the intense 3 hour braise and was luscious.  Savoury and rich bread pudding with a hint of sweet tart apple.  The magic came from the onions.  The thick cut onion rings had completely melted onto the pork chops forming an outer onion pork skin, sugary sweet and slurpingly tender.  The bacon fried corn added crunch and saltiness, especially good when swiped through the sweet onion sauce.

This was not pretty food.  It was not intended to be.  

My country people didn't cook pretty food. They cooked pretty damn good food.

No comments: