Monday, December 3, 2012

Learning From The Best-Richard Olney

One night, in the nurses' break room, in the hospital where I used to work ,I overheard a young woman, a respiratory therapist, talking about her boyfriend, who after many suppers at her place, had blurted out "Can't you cook anything besides pasta?'

She couldn't, and I felt sorry for her, for her mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins had left her rudderless in a culinary sea, with her only life jacket a pot of spaghetti and a big jar of bottled sauce.

Some might think she could have looked for teachers on TV, on one of the food channels. Mario Batali would have taught her, had his show been on consistently and at a watchable hour-. Or she could have searched for Sarah Moulton, whose show is now lost somewhere on PBS.

If this young woman could afford it, she could have signed on to the cooking classes over at The Viking School in The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee.

Had she asked me for advice ,I would have told her to buy a few good cookbooks to study. Perhaps Mark Bittman's "How To Cook Everything" if she insisted on something contemporary. But no books by the latest Chef Of The Moment with his stunt recipes from his stunt restaurant. Far better to trust in the late Richard Olney, and his fine cookbook"Simple French Food".

Olney, who was something of a bohemian, escaped Iowa as a young man and fled to France to become an artist. He bought a broken down hovel in Provence and restored it to liveable, all the while making fast friends with his neighbors Lulu and Lucien Peyraud, who owned a farm and a winery nearby. And he began to cook.

Olney loved simplicity. I could not imagine him spending hours making a spun sugar helmet for a cake, as Julia Child did once on an episode of "The French Chef". A gratin of turnips, garlic,and Gruyere cheese. The pork chop recipe that follows. This was Olney's style of cooking.

One note. Olney added dry white wine to this recipe to deglaze the pan after browning the pork chops. I omitted this. I added prunes, which sometimes sneak their way into pork dishes in provincial France. Olney did not use them in this dish. The following is my version.

3 or 4 apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced thinly

1 tbs butter

4 pork chops,no more than 3/4 inch thick

Salt, to sprinkle on the chops before browning

1 cup heavy cream

2-3 heaping tablespoons of Dijon mustard. To taste.

Pepper, to season the chops before browning

Spread the apples on the bottom of a lightly buttered gratin baker that is large enough to place the pork chops in side by side. Bake the apples in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
While the apples are baking, salt and pepper the chops, add a little butter to a saute pan, and brown the chops for 7 minutes each side over medium high heat. Then place the chops on top of the apples in the gratin dish. Add some prunes along the sides of the baker. (If your digestive system rebels at sulfured prunes you might want to omit these!)

Next pour 1 cup of heavy cream into a bowl, and add the mustard a little at a time to taste. Then pour the mixture over the pork. Olney advises that you the shake the gratin pan side to side to allow the cream to seep down into the apples. Then return the gratin pan back to the oven and bake at 400 degrees for another 15 to 20 minutes.

This should serve four or five. And I think it would impress any young woman's boyfriend-


Hollywood forever, Kevin said...

Oh, I wish you were my neighbor, for mealtime and conversation! Thanks for dropping by, I always appreciate, truly.

betsy said...

Kevin, I wish you were my neighbor as well! Oh well, we can be cyber neighbors. May fortune bring you more design projects in Palm Springs and all those dream places I see through your blog.

troutbirder said...

Indeed. Simple is best. Though I wish I had my moms book of recipe notes long gone. I try to reconfigure her list of my favorite childhood dishes with only rare success.

betsy said...

I think the reason people like community cookbooks is because they record the favorite dishes made by mothers!