By Joe Gray Chicago Tribune
My younger brother and my sister don’t remember them. Our older brother tried to make them, but they didn’t turn out. And dad doesn’t have the recipe, nor does he remember how he made them, though he does remember that he made them.
They were apple pancakes, and I’ve been thinking about them lately. Not the famous baked puffy apple masterpiece of pancake houses. These are thin slices of apple, cut horizontally to show the hole in the middle where the core was removed, then lightly coated with batter and griddled until browned and crisp on the outside, while the fruit inside is cooked through but still retains some bite.
Dad made them for breakfast when we were kids. They were one of my favorites. But when I thought of them in recent months, I was inspired to have them for dinner. Pork would be a good companion, given its affinity for fruit flavors. I just needed to work out the batter.
Without dad’s recipe, I experimented a bit, settling on a classic pancake from American cooking legend Marion Cunningham. Consistency was the only trick. The batter needed to be thick enough so it didn’t slide off, which is what happened to my brother’s pancakes, but not so thick that it clumped up.
That problem solved, the dish needed something to tie the pork chops and pancakes together. A quick sauce was the answer, savory from sauteed onions and sweet and tart from dried cherries and a dose of balsamic vinegar.
Pork chops with apple pancakes and cherry sauce
The pancake batter here is adapted from a recipe in “The Breakfast Book” by Marion Cunningham, published in 1987. The batter is prepared and the pork chops and sauce cooked before the pancakes are made, as the pancakes should be eaten as soon as possible after cooking to preserve their texture. You may have leftover batter; save the remainder for breakfast. It keeps several days.
For the batter:
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted, cooled
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the pork chops
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 boneless pork chops, about 5 ounces each
For the sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon each: balsamic vinegar, butter
For the pancakes
2 large sweet-tart apples, such as Granny Smith
Butter or canola oil, as needed
For the batter, whisk the egg in a bowl until thoroughly blended. Stir the milk and butter into the beaten egg; mix well. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl; stir with a fork to blend. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir only until the dry ingredients are well moistened; don’t overmix. Set aside.
For the pork chops, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the chops; cook, turning once, until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Keep warm.
For the sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat; add the onions. Season with salt. Cook until the onions have softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cherries, wine and vinegar; cook until the cherries soften and wine reduces by half. Stir in butter until melted and the sauce thickens somewhat. Taste for seasoning.
For the pancakes, core and peel the apples, leaving them whole. Slice apples horizontally in ¼-inch thick pieces. Place the pancake batter in a shallow bowl. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat; when hot enough that a droplet of water sizzles immediately upon contact with the surface, slick with just enough butter or canola oil to coat the bottom. Dip the apple slices in the batter, 2 or 3 at a time, coating both sides. Let the excess drip off; the hole in the middle of each slice should be visible. (Poke the tip of your pinkie through it if you need to.) The batter should cling to the slices but not too thickly. Adjust the batter’s consistency with a little more milk or flour if needed.
Place apple slices in the hot skillet; cook until small bubbles appear on the edges of the batter and the batter on the bottom is set, 2-3 minutes. Flip; cook the other side, 1-2 minutes. Repeat with remaining apple slices, adding butter if needed. Keep warm in a 200-degree oven.
6. Serve the apple pancakes with the chops alongside, topping them with the sauce.
Makes: 4 servings
Nutrition information per serving: 647 calories, 31 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, 181 mg cholesterol, 55 g carbohydrates, 37 g protein, 814 mg sodium, 7 g fiber