The French word for potato is pomme de terre, or “apple of the earth.” And on the North Fork, both the apple and the potato are at their best in October.
Many varieties of apple and many sizes of potato are now available to give us choices of flavor, size and texture that we never experienced before. They also combine to enhance each other’s attributes: the starchy potato and the sweet, acidic apple. When meat is involved, apple and potato seem to complement pork best of all. The following pork roast recipe exemplifies the synergy between these ingredients:
Roast Pork with Apples
Purchase a boneless, center-cut pork roast of about 2 1/2 pounds. Wrap it in 6 strips of apple-smoked bacon and tie it into a tight roll with butcher’s twine.
Slice 6 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes into quarter-inch slices, leaving the skin on. Place the slices in a large bowl.
Peel and quarter 2 large Mutsu apples and remove the cores. Save the skin and cores for the sauce. Cut the peeled apples into thick slices and add them to the potatoes.
Peel 1 Spanish onion, cut it into wedges and add it to the potatoes. Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme to the potato mixture along with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Toss this mixture together and place it in the bottom of a shallow casserole.
Put the bacon-wrapped pork roast on top of the vegetables and place it, uncovered, in a 425-degree oven. Let it cook at high heat for 25 minutes before turning the heat down to 300 degrees. Cook for 45 minutes at low temperature before inserting a meat thermometer to see if it has reached an internal temperature of 140 degrees. Remove from the oven and cover with foil. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
While the roast is cooking, place the apple skins and cores into a small saucepan and add 1 1/2 cups hard cider, 1 cup chicken broth, 1 bay leaf and 2 sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil and let it reduce by about half before straining it into another small saucepan. Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch into 2 tablespoons cold water and stir into the sauce, bringing it to a boil again to thicken slightly.
Serve the pork with the sauce on the side, along with some homemade chunk-style applesauce.
Peel and core 2 large Mutsu apples and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Place them in a saucepan and add 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Add the juice and zest from 1 lemon and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat, add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and mash with a potato masher.
with Brussels Sprouts
Cut 1 pound of fingerling potatoes in half crosswise and cook them in salted simmering water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Slice 1 pint of Brussels sprouts into 1/8-inch slices and chop 1/4 cup of shallots. Cut 4 strips of bacon into half-inch dice. Heat a large sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the chopped bacon and let it begin to brown before adding the Brussels sprouts and the shallots. Sauté for 3 minutes and pour in 1/4 cup white wine and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme. Cook until wine evaporates and add the potatoes along with 1/2 cup milk and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Mash this mixture with a potato masher, leaving it pretty chunky.
Sprinkle with chopped chives, check for seasoning and serve.
Individual Apple Crisp
Peel and quarter 3 Mutsu apples and, after removing the cores, cut them into 1-inch chunks. Place in a bowl with the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. Season with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
Process 1 cup oatmeal in a food processor and add it to 1/2 cup whole old-fashioned oatmeal. Stir in 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 6 tablespoons melted butter.
Set up eight 6-ounce ceramic ramekins and spray them with no-stick. Spoon the apple mixture into them evenly and place the oatmeal mixture on top of each ramekin.
Put the ramekins on a sheet pan and cover with foil. Cook in a 375- degree oven for 30 minutes, remove the foil and cook for another 25 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
Purchase 2 large russet baking potatoes and 2 Mutsu apples. Peel the potatoes and shred them into a large bowl with a box grater. Peel and core the apples and shred them into the bowl with the potatoes. Dump the shredded potatoes and apples into a clean towel and squeeze the moisture out of them by twisting the towel as hard as you can.
Break 2 eggs into the bowl and mix them with 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup finely chopped scallion.
Heat a large sauté pan and spray it with no-stick. Add canola oil to cover the bottom, about 3 tablespoons. Using a 1/2-cup measure, portion the potato mixture into the pan and flatten the pancakes with a spatula. Cook until brown and turn, reducing the heat so they cook through without burning. Serve with the chunky applesauce above.
John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected].