From Earthsprings Kitchen

Several of you asked me for recipes from last weekend’s retreat. Here are recipes for Simple Pork Chops and Salmon Loaf.

Simple Pork Chops

Have ready: Slice enough onions (1/2 inch thick slices) to completely cover in one layer all the pork chops you plan to cook, plus a few extra onion slices.

Using any thickness of pork chops (this weekend’s were medium thickness boneless), trim away any fat bits around the edges. Wash the chops, pat them dry with paper towels, salt and pepper each chop, and rub a bit of dried powdered sage onto one surface of each chop.

In a heavy skillet that has a fitting lid, preferably one large enough to hold all the pork chops in one layer, place a thin film of oil.

(Now the question has come up before about “which oil” to use for what. All cooking oils have distinct flavors and characteristics. I suggest you experiment a bit with each kind to determine your preference as to flavor; for cooking, I use a light olive oil for Italian food and Mexican food, sunflower or safflower oil for a lighter, more subtle flavor, canola oil when flavor doesn’t matter at all, and sometimes peanut oil or corn oil for Chinese food. For these pork chops this weekend, I used sunflower oil. And, incidentally, I almost always use safflower oil to make the salad dressing and tomato marinade I make so often.)

Over medium to high heat, brown the pork chops in the very small amount of oil in the skillet, turning them once to brown them on each side. Lay the sliced onions on top of the browned chops, completely covering them. Add a small amount of water, enough to come up about 1/4th of the way on the chops. Cover the skillet tightly with the lid, lower the temperature to the lowest point under the skillet, and simmer slowly until the chops are very fork tender (more than 30 minutes), periodically removing the lid to check the amount of water and juice in the pan, adding a bit more water as you go to keep the chops from burning. The liquid accumulating in the skillet (the water, the disintegrating onions, the juices from the chops) makes the gravy, so don’t add so much water that the gravy is too weak and flavorless; just add enough water to keep the chops from burning and to end up with some gravy. If your chops are thick, you may need to turn them over once during cooking. Pull any remaining onions back on top of the chops, and keep cooking.

That’s it. I usually make mashed potatoes to go with this, as the pork chop gravy over the mashed potatoes is delicious.

Salmon Loaf

Ingredients: Canned salmon, bread, whole egg, salt, pepper, seasonings, crunchies such as finely chopped pecans, onions, parsley, chopped celery.

This easy, fun recipe allows you to experiment with what you have on hand. The trick is to get the right amount of liquid with the right amount of the rest of the stuff before baking it.

Drain and reserve the liquid off canned salmon. Put the salmon in a large bowl. With a fork, thoroughly munch up the salmon, then combine it with not quite an equal amount of thoroughly munched up dry bread. This weekend we had a person trying to limit his gluten intake, so instead of the usual whole wheat bread, I used scalded cornbread (see recipe below). Whatever bread you use, crumble or mush it up completely.

Add crunchiness (finely chopped celery, chopped pecans, chopped parsley, finely chopped white onion, etc). Add salt and pepper and any or all of the following or other seasonings to your taste: dill, tarragon, sage, nutmeg etc. Taste at this point; it should taste a little stronger than you want it come out. Add whole egg (one or two depending on how big a loaf you are making; the egg is the binder that makes it all stick together when it bakes), stir all together very well. The mixture should not be so dry it falls apart easily, but not be so liquid it is runny.

Put in a very lightly oiled loaf pan; bake in a slow oven (325) for maybe an hour or a little more, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and until the edges of the loaf are beginning to brown. The top of the loaf looks rather drab; you can put a bit of butter over the top for a few minutes before removing and let this brown if you like. (I usually cheat and cut a knife into the loaf to be sure it’s all done before taking it out, but I’ve been known to cook it too long and make it too dry or burn it. Just pay attention to it.)

The experimental salmon loaf sauce I made this weekend:

In a skillet over medium heat, place 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of white flour, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Add salt and pepper. Cook while stirring until this “roux” turns golden brown. Add one cup of the reserved liquid from the canned salmon (add water to make a cup of there is not enough of the liquid). Continue stirring and cooking over low heat as you add … (oh, my, what all did I add this time??? onion powder, dried dill, sage, nutmeg, tarragon, cardamon, a pinch of brown sugar, a pouring of white cooking wine, etc.; honestly, I can’t remember, I just put a bit of this and that: you can too!)

After about five minutes of cooking and stirring, taste. If it still tastes floury, keep cooking, without burning. It should be a medium sauce, not a thick gravy. Set aside.

In a small pot, melt butter, maybe ½ a stick, until it turns golden brown. Add some of this to some of the reserved sauce, whisking thoroughly with a wire whisk. Taste, then adjust the amount of each, and adding more cooking wine if needed, or more seasonings, until you get it to your liking, whisking all the time.

To serve, reheat the sauce, whisking thoroughly. Slice the salmon loaf thickly, put a generous portion of toasted slivered almonds over each slice, and cover it about ½ way with the sauce, pouring a bit more sauce around slice, leaving some of the salmon slice unsauced. Parsley sprigs brighten up the drab look of the delicious dish.

Homemade cooked cranberries is delicious with this.

Scalded Cornbread:

Place in a big bowl any amount of cornmeal with a bit of salt. Pour BOILING water into the cornmeal, just enough to make the cornmeal stick together. Note: It is absolutely essential that the water be boiling or the meal won’t stick together. While the cornmeal is still hot, form it into flat patties about ¾ inches thick and about 2 ½ inches across.

These are near neighbors to hushpuppies, but hushpuppies are cooked by being immersed completely in a lot of hot oil; these flat patties can be pan fried in a very small amount of oil over high heat. They brown (or burn quickly); the outside will be crisp, the inside might be slightly mushy, but is thoroughly cooked already by the boiling water. Old timers in my family made these scalded cornbread cakes , over a campfire, on a freezing cold day when camping out or when out in the distant fields hoeing crops (sometimes these are called “hoe cakes” because the farmer or rancher, far from a kitchen, simply cleaned the flat hoe, then used it for a surface on which to cook the “cakes” over a low campfire; they got to be hushpuppies because the cook would throw one or two of the cakes to the ever-faithful but insistent dog standing at his feet, with a “Hush, puppy” command. Or so I’m told.). Think about the hearty old timers when you cook and eat these quick, easy, delicious corn cakes.

Eat the scalded cornbread cakes hot with butter and honey or cane syrup or molasses , or with fish, or crumbled up in black-eyed peas or butterbeans, or as “filler” in things like salmon loaf (or stacked up intermittently with onion, cheese ,stewed tomatoes, chili powder, salt and pepper and baked;this called “depression casserole” from days when meat was scarce).

Thanks for requesting the recipes. I loved the weekend.

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