One of my most favorite children’s books is Farmer’s Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  When my children were young I use to read to them the entire series, and always looked forward to Farmer’s Boy, the story of Almanzo Wilder who grew up on a wealthy farm in upper New York State.  Not only did Almanzo have a wonderful childhood playing and raising animals, but he also had a ferocious appetite and the book goes in great details about his meals.  One that often comes to my mind is his love for fried onions and applies.

For years I thought that was an odd combination, until out of total cooking boredom, I decided to expand my dinner repertoire and start experimenting.  Yes, apples and onions go well together and so does fennel and pork.  Add a bit of Calvados (apple brandy – you can also substitute with brandy or cognac) and voila – a gourmet meal on the cheap.  Don’t forget a glass of wine with your meal and of, course a salad using the SaladSuccess shaker to make your dressing.

Pork Loin Roll with Apples, Onions, Fennel and Calvados – feeds 4-6:  Prep Time-20 minutes, Inactive Cooking Time – 1 to 1.5 hours

1 ½ – 2 lbs of pork loin (you can also use chops, shoulder etc)

6 cored and sliced apples – granny smith, pippin, mix of what’s in your fruit bin, just don’t use red delicious

2 sliced onions

2 cored and sliced fennel bulbs

1 shallot

½ cup of Calvados

½ cup of water

½ tsp of fine cinnamon – I use Costco’s Saigon Cinnamon or go to Penzey’s

½ tsp of freshly grounded nutmeg

Olive oil

Salt & Grounded Pepper to taste

In a BIG Dutch oven or cocotte (I’ve got 30 year old favorite from Le Creuset), pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Using a med-high heat, sear the pork on all sides, thus trapping in the juices – 1 to 3 minutes per side.  Add water & Calvados and cover firmly with a lid.  About 10 minutes later, add apples, onions, fennel, shallots, cinnamon, nutmeg and lightly salt and pepper.  Cover and wait 10 minutes, then reduce heat to low.  Cook for about 1 hour – 1 ½ hours.

Before serving, I’ll garnish the veggies with cranberries and perhaps some chopped nuts.  It adds a little color and texture to the meal.

Enjoy and hugs………………………Nadine

pork-loinSo after I spent a small fortune on New Year’s Eve Dinner – the lobster tail threw my budget out of whack- I’m back to being a cheap bitch.  This is going to really take the test, since my new year’s resolution is to cut back drastically on grain-fed beef, especially cattle that are fed predominately corn.  My eldest daughter, Suzanne, is particularly stressed to hear that most cattle are feed corn, and need antibiotics to keep them alive since the corn is not part of their natural diet.  Since my blood sugar has been elevated, I figure that keeping corn (you know, that starch-sugar-carb thing) out of my diet might be a good idea.  And I should cut down serving all meats for a healthier life. But when pork loin roll sells for $1.67 a pound (on sale), I’m a sucker.

Sometimes being cheap isn’t intuitive.  To really get me going, I visit Dee Dee’s blog at Every Day Frugal/ Every Day Green.  I’ve known Dee since I was a junior at Princeton High School in New Jersey and even in those days, she knew how to stretch a dollar.  As young women, we would hop in my car and go visit Pennsylvania outlets.  Our best score was the day we found the cashmere sweater outlet.  How we would agonize over which sweater to buy at outlandish price of $17.

Now when it comes to being cheap – oh, excuse me – frugal and thrifty, Dee has me beat.  She turns used cashmere sweaters into wonderful scarves, finds designer dresses at church bazaars for nearly nothing, can make dinner for two on a dime (no, she doesn’t have small children that throw tantrums if there is no steak), is committed to recycling, eating locally grown produce, and keeping a small footprint on the Earth (hers is size 5).  But if you have ever seen her house (pre-revolutionary war), her wardrobe and her life style, you would think that the woman lived the Town and Country dream life.  And she does, only with a lot less money and a lot less waste.

So these next three blogs are a salute to you, Dee.   There is no reason that inexpensive ingredients can’t make a wonderful meal.  The only thing that would make it better is to have you at my dinner table.

Pork Loin Roll with Tarragon, Onion and Fennel:  Prep – 20 minutes, Cooking time – 1 ½ hours

I usually buy a 4 – 6 lb pork roll, and cut it so that I can make at least 4 meals out of it.  I keep one for the night’s dinner and freeze the other 3.  Sometimes for veggies, I might use parsnips and turnips, or even apples.  Other times I just want fennel and onions (no potatoes, carrots or celery) and I would use ½ as much wine and water.

1 to 1 ½ pound of pork roll

2 finely sliced onions

2 sliced fennel bulbs – chop of the tops and cut out the hard center

¼ cup dried herbs – like herbs de Provence

½ cup white wine – I use “2 Buck Chuck ‘ that is found out Trader Joe’s

½ cup of water

4 – 6 potatoes – quartered or sliced – I use yellow or Yukon Golds.  Fingerlings or babies work well too.

4-6 carrots nicely sliced

3 sticks of celery – rough chop

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven, pour enough olive oil to cover bottom and when hot, sear all sides of the pork.  Take out the pork from the oven, place it on a cutting board on one of its flat sides (this will make it look tall) and stick a large knife deep into it down the center (don’t go sissy on me, use this to relieve tension).  You probably won’t be able to go all the way to the bottom but try.  Then stuff tarragon and the herbs into the opening.

Saute the onions and fennel in the Dutch oven.  When soft, add the pork roll, wine, water, potatoes, carrots and celery.  Cover and cook at medium temperature.  After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to a low setting.  Cook for another 60 -70 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.