The sun was not gracious to us in its departure this fall. Instead of easing us into the sunless days of fall and winter, it ripped itself away from us like a band-aid, leaving behind a stinging patch of gray days that feels like it might never go away.
Yesterday, there was sleet. And then intermittent flurries. And then a lot of sighing by me. I’m just not ready for this, folks. The idea of fall is so appealing, right? We remember our scarves. We like the feeling of socks again. We go crazy over pumpkin everything, and drink hot beverages in the middle of the day.
But it’s coming. Winter is just around the corner. How do I know this?
Because Owen and I took one of our classic 40-minute walks around the block the other day pausing to do important things like pick up every stick and kick every dry leaf. And let’s just say it was not as fun as a few weeks ago. My hands were stuffed deep in my pockets. My nose tucked into my scarf. And I was freezing.
And I kept saying, “Don’t you want to go back home now?” in an overly excited voice…which quickly turned into, “Let’s head back and watch Elmo!” But to no avail. This kid – maybe it’s his Russian / Norwegian heritage – is seemingly unphased by the cold and protested pretty angrily when I finally did drag him inside our door.
This is how I know winter is coming. And it will only get worse. And there will be a second baby to dress and keep from freezing to death. I’m struggling here. Struggling.
But then I made this dish from one of my very favorite cookbooks – The Northern Heartland Kitchen. And it smelled like fall had exploded in our house – in only the very best of ways. The pork chops were seared. And then braised in a mixture of a nice October beer, pears, onions, and sage. And I kept saying, “Do you smell that?!?!”
We served these with mashed potatoes. And ate more than our fair share. We just couldn’t stop; they were so good.
And I remembered that in the cold, icy months ahead, there will be more braises, and lasagnas, and finding excuses to bake so we can turn the oven. Brownies will be our silver lining in these gray, gray clouds.
(recipe from The Northern Heartland Kitchen Cookbook )
(yields 4 servings)
I barely did a thing to change this recipe. After reading through it, I could almost taste it, and I couldn't think of one thing to improve it except to add more pears. I wanted every bite to have some pear, so I added 2 pears to the mix.
4 boneless pork chops, about 1-inch thick
salt & pepper
2 tbsp. butter
2 small onions, thinly sliced
2 fresh sage leaves (or app. 1/4 tsp. dried)
1/4 c. strong-tasting beer*
1/2 c. chicken broth
2-3 medium pears, cored and thinly sliced
*We used local beer Surlyfest (a nice, strong October beer)
Sear the Chops:
Trim some but not all of the fat from the chops. Pat the chops dry, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; then add the chops to the pan. Brown on each side, about 5-8 minutes total. Then set the chops aside on a plate.
Make the Braise:
Add the onions and sage to the fat in the skillet and cook, stirring until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the beer and broth, scraping up any browned bits left in the pan. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the onions are very tender, about 15 minutes.
Braise the Chops:
Return the chops to the pan, with any juices accumulated on the plate. Scoop some of the onions on top of the pork and add the sliced pears. Cover and cook over medium heat, turning over a few times, until most of the liquid has evaporated and a meat thermometer inserted into the center of a chop reads 145*. Remove the sage leaves and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve the chops drizzled with the pan juices and topped with the onions and pear slices.