I tried two new recipes for a casual dinner this week. One came out very well; one didn’t. Fortunately, the main dish was the good one.
I had a nice pair of Berkshire pork chops that I wanted to do something interesting with. I chose a recipe from The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire volume of the Time-Life Foods of the World series. This 45-year-old pioneering series of cookbooks rarely lets me down and often points me in directions that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. In this case, its recipe called for classic Hungarian flavors: lard, sweet paprika, onions, tomato, and sour cream. It was an opportunity to use some of the paprika I bought at the wonderful Great Market Hall in Budapest, on a vacation quite a few years ago. To my continuing surprise, it still hasn’t lost its strength. Given how well it worked in this recipe, I think I should use it more often.
So I browned the chops in lard (actually in their own fat, trimmed off and rendered out); removed them; softened chopped onion and garlic in the same pan; added paprika, chicken broth, and tomato puree; returned the chops and simmered them very gently for 40 minutes.
When they were done I kept them warm while I made the sauce. I stirred sour cream mixed with a bit of flour into the pan, cooked that briefly, then finished the sauce with julienne strips of boiled ham and my own bread-and-butter pickles. Actually, the pickles should have been sour gherkins, but I didn’t have any on hand. I had intended to use cornichons, but then I discovered that I didn’t have any more of those in the fridge – so bread-and-butter pickles it had to be.
Altogether, it made a very tasty dish. I’d worried that the ham and pickles might be too insistent in the mixture, but they blended right in, providing a nice textural contrast to the tender pork and the rich, creamy sauce. My pickles aren’t as sweet as most b&b’s are, which undoubtedly helped.
The accompanying vegetable for the chops wasn’t so successful. I rarely cook fresh corn off the cob. I just don’t think of it, probably because when I was growing up, any corn off the cob that my family ate came out of a can. But it’s high corn season now, so I thought I’d try something with fresh kernels. Starting small, I chose a brief recipe for sautéed corn from America’s Cook Book, a 75-year-old volume that was my mother’s only cookbook.
It said to sauté cut corn in “fat” (I used butter) for 5 or 6 minutes until “delicately browned.” Well, my corn started looking dry before really browning, so I didn’t persist but went on to the only other step, which was stirring in salt, pepper, and some heavy cream. I thought the dish might come out like creamed corn, but no, not at all: My corn kernels instantly absorbed all the cream and pretended it was never there.
Unfortunately, despite its cream bath, the corn became rather leathery from the sautéeing. It had lost much of its freshness without gaining anything in exchange. We chewed our way through it, though, and consoled ourselves with our genuine enjoyment of the pork chops. There’s still enough of corn season left for me to try again with another recipe.