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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown to Dinner: Pork and apples marry in delicious sauce

Thursday, January 06, 2000

Tested by Nancy Anderson

Today's Countdown recipe for Balsamic Pork and Apples is the third entry from Gary Gates, our budding chef from CMU.

Although Gary is a doctoral student at the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon, we think he should bag it and go to the Culinary Institute of America instead.

Anyone who can invent recipes this good belongs in a kitchen.

His other entries for Baked Stuffed Trout and Chicken Dijon were inventive, delicious and amazingly easy.

Today's recipe has seven ingredients -- a no-no for Countdown entries -- but the seventh is only a teaspoon of sugar so, in the generous spirit of the New Year, we'll let it slide.

Gates adapted the dish from a recipe he found on the Internet and originally made it with a handful of fresh cranberries left over from Thanksgiving.

"I'm always looking for ways to get rid of the bits and pieces in the refrigerator," the Johnstown native said. "Some of my best recipes come from cleaning out the fridge."

In today's version he uses apples (presumably because they just happened to be there), and it's an admirable melding of flavors.

The pork was tender and juicy, the apples semi-soft and the slightly thickened sauce pleasantly tangy.

We served it with sweet potatoes, pricked then baked in the microwave for 10 minutes, and green beans with a dash of oregano.

Quite an impressive, nutritious, tasty meal in 26 minutes.

Gates doesn't surf the Internet for recipes as much as he used to, since a friend gave him a subscription to Bon Appetit magazine.

"I don't like complicated recipes," he said. "And surprisingly Bon Appetit has more easy recipes than I thought it would, including a 30 minutes or less section."

Besides cooking, the 38-year-old enjoys jogging (he ran in the Great Race) and riding his bike in Frick Park, which he calls a major asset to Pittsburgh.

We at Countdown consider him a major asset also.

Balsamic Pork and Apples

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 boneless pork loin chops (we used 4)
2 Gala or any tart apples, unpeeled, cut into 8 wedges
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on pork chops to taste and sauté until browned and fully cooked (about 5 minutes on each side depending on thickness of chop). Remove chops.

In same skillet, add remaining olive oil and sauté apple wedges (we cut them into slices instead of wedges) on both sides until lightly browned and tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix chicken broth, vinegar, cornstarch and sugar and whisk thoroughly (sugar blends better if chicken broth is warm).

Add mixture to skillet with apples. Heat to boiling and return pork to skillet to heat through. (Our chops were thick so we let them simmer in the sauce for 5 minutes). Very good served with couscous or egg noodles.

Possible variation: Add 1/2 cup raisins or dried or fresh cranberries to skillet when you add the liquid. If using fresh cranberries, leave on the heat a few minutes until they pop.

Do you have an entrée, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number.

Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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