Pork, apples and Calvados is a classic French, specifically Norman combination. There is a reason why classic combinations endure and that is because they work. I used a piece of boned pork loin, trimmed of the fat and the more chewy parts, and I served the pork with some steamed cabbage, a smooth Jerusalem artichoke purée, a cream and Calvados sauce and finished it off with a garnish of chopped toasted hazelnuts and parsley.
Ingredients (for two)
a piece of boned and trimmed pork loin about 3 inches thick
neutral cooking oil (I used grape seed oil)
salt and pepper
a couple of tablespoons of toasted and chopped hazelnuts
6 or 7 Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and boiled until soft
a small glass of Calvados (Norman apple brandy)
thickly-shredded hispi cabbage, tough stems removed
1 eating apple (I used a Cox’s), cored, peeled and cut into thick slices
There is quite a bit of work here, but you can do a lot of the prep in advance.
First, shell your hazelnuts and remove the inner skins. The easy way of doing this is to boil some water in a saucepan, add a couple of heaped tablespoons of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which will froth up dramatically, and then boil the hazelnuts until the skins darken and the water starts to turn an alarming black colour. Take out one hazelnut and see if the skin comes away. If so, drain the hazelnuts and rinse under the tap. You should be able to rub the skins off easily with your fingers. If the skin doesn’t come away, carry on boiling for a minute or so longer. Dry the hazelnuts on kitchen roll and set aside.
Next, prepare the cabbage and Jerusalem artichokes. Don’t cook the cabbage yet. Boil the artichokes in salted water until soft and pass through a sieve to remove any stringy bits. Season with grated nutmeg and pepper. Set aside.
When you want to cook, pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Dry fry the hazelnuts in a frying pan, so that they toast, but be careful that they do not burn. Set aside.
Heat up some oil and butter in a pan that can go into the oven. I use an old black iron frying pan for this. It is about 20 years old and has a wonderful shiny black patina, like a well-seasoned wok.
Season the pork with salt and pepper and seal on all sides in the butter. Put into the oven for around 15 minutes. when the 15 minutes are up, test the pork to see if the juices are clear with a skewer. A slight pinkness is OK. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest. Deglaze the pan with the Calvados and flame off the alcohol. (I love doing this, the flames are really impressive.) Add the chicken stock and half of the crème fraiche, stir and allow to reduce on a low flame. Fry the apple slices in butter until soft and lightly coloured.
Steam the cabbage. This should only take about 4 or 5 minutes. While you are doing this, reheat the artichoke purée with the rest of the crème fraiche, stirring so that it doesn’t stick and burn. A non-stick saucepan is a good idea here.
Chop the hazelnuts with a few sprigs of parsley.
Plating up is pretty simple. First the cabbage, then the pork, which you should first cut into two equal pieces, then the purée and the apples, then nap the pork with the sauce and finally the parsley and hazelnut garnish.