Welcome home never tasted so good!

I have been traveling for the last few weeks. San Francisco and New York. Two of my most favorite cities to visit. The local farmer's markets always leave me in awe of the variety of locally grown ingredients. Restaurants are plentiful- either tried and true favorites or new additions. Local chefs show-off their creativity in the kitchen and beauty on the plate. I am inspired by my travels, but I am also tired and very glad to be back home. Our dog child, Jack, is sitting comfortably on the couch. He is finally relaxed and happy now that we are back at home. We are too.

After being away so long, I want to surround myself with the comforts of home and home-cooked food. The refrigerator is hollow with emptiness and it is time to restock the pantry. But all I have on my mind is tonight's dinner. A simple plate of comfort food is what I crave. Something to warm the stomach and ease the kitchen back into action. I head to a local market where I know local vegetables and the best butchered meats live. Surely, I will find what I am looking for. What am I looking for?

Smoked pork chops in cider sauce with fresh sage and butter basted brussel sprouts. Hard to believe that something I hated so much as a kid is now one of my favorite comfort foods- that would be both brussel sprouts and pork chops. The pork chops I remember were breaded in egg and bread crumbs, then cooked nearly to death. My dad had an organic garden one year and would come to the table with a big bowl of brussels sprouts. It has taken me many years to come around and now I love these strange looking knobs of little leaves of green.

I toss the lightly salted and blanched sprouts into the pan with the already seared pork chops. The sprouts sizzle from the droplets of water from the cooking water. I found a handful of leftover chestnuts still in their shells. They were hard as a rock, so I broke them up into bits and threw them into the water. They reconstituted beautifully into a lusciously soft, creamy bite. A surprisingly sweet and earthy compliment to the sprouts. I love it when experiments work! We settled our backside into our seats and toasted to being back at home.
Welcome Home never tasted so good!

Applewood Smoked Chops with Sauteed Brussel Sprouts & Chestnuts.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2 applewood smoked pork chops on the bone {you can also use uncured pork chops and saute with applewood bacon instead of oil}
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 handfuls of fresh brussel sprout bulbs, washed, trimmed of ends and cut in half. The smaller the better, here.
4 roasted chestnuts {you most likely won't have chestnuts laying around, so you might substitute with canned or a tablespoon of puree mixed with broth for flavor}.
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
sprig of fresh sage
1/4 cup Cranberry Conserve
Salt & Pepper to season

In 1 quart of salted boiling water, blanch the brussel spouts just until cooked al dente when pierced with a sharp knife.
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Sear the chops until caramelized on front and sides. Turn over.
Add the brussel sprouts, chestnuts, cider vinegar and sage. Cook in the oven uncovered just until the sprouts are tender and the chops are done {about five-seven minutes}.
Serve with a dollop of Cranberry Conserve.

Buon appetito!
copyright 2009 Alisa Barry

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