Fall on a Plate: Recipes from Connie Fairbanks

October 31, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Pork Chops with Savory Fruit Sauté on Squash Puree
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

3 leeks, thinly sliced, white parts only

2 Granny Smith or Honey Crisp apples, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 bone-in pork chops, 1 1/2 - 2 inches thick

All-purpose flour for dusting the pork chops

2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar

1 cup seedless purple grapes

1 cup small grape tomatoes

1/2 cup sliced fresh basil leaves

Prepare the Squash Puree. (see below) Keep it hot until serving time.

To start the fruit sauté, heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the grapeseed oil to coat the skillet. Add the leeks and apples, sauté until soft, but still holding their shape. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauté to a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Using the same skillet, and some more grapeseed oil to coat the bottom. Heat until hot, but not smoking.

In the meantime, pat the pork chops dry, and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Pour some flour onto a plate. Dredge the pork chops in the flour. Add the chops to the pan and cook for about 4 minutes without turning them; they should be golden brown on the bottom. Turn the chops with large tongs, and brown the other side for about 4 minutes. Immediately transfer the skillet to the oven and finish cooking the chops for about 7 minutes, or until pink in the center.

Transfer the pork chops to a plate, cover with aluminum foil and let them rest for a few minutes.

Place the leeks and apples back in the used skillet. Use more grapeseed oil if necessary. Add the vinegar and heat until warm. Add the grapes and tomatoes, and warm them through. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

To assemble: Place 1/2 cup of the squash puree in the middle of each plate, top with a layer of the sautéed fruit mixture and drippings from the skillet, some sliced basil, a pork chop, and some more basil on top for garnish. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Squash Puree
1 butternut squash (1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon finely chopped sage

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons half-and-half

2 cups chicken broth or water

Freshly ground black pepper

Put squash and salt in a large saucepan and cover with water or broth. Bring to a boil until it is fork tender, about 20 minutes. Pour off most of the water and return the squash to the saucepan. Add the sage, butter and half-and-half. Puree with an immersion blender in the saucepan or mash the squash until it is the desired consistency. Check for seasonings and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Keep hot by transferring the puree to a glass mixing bowl and place it over the saucepan partially filled with simmering water.

Connie's Notes: Peel and cube the squash the day before and store in a resalable bag. Also, add freshly grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon and maple syrup to make it a sweet puree. Have any leftovers for a brown bag lunch the next day.

Connie will be demonstrating holiday appetizers, answering cooking questions, and signing cookbooks at www.smittenboutique.net in the West Loop at 1041 W. Madison Street, on Saturday, November 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. Call (312) 226-7777 for more details.

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