52 Foods Week Six: Apples

Sometimes you pick the meal, sometimes the meal picks you. The latter happened this week, when I came upon a gorgeous haul of Pink Lady apples from Mt. Moriah Farms. I quickly filled a bag with 10 or 12, not certain what we would do with all of them, but confident that a plan would become clear. Placing the apples alongside some leeks we had purchased earlier, I realized that the meal I should make—the meal I had to make—involved that most apple-loving of meats, the humble pork chop.

For the meal I envisioned, I needed thick pork chops. Pork chops thicker than any I had seen in Davis. Fortunately, I had a hunch about where these might be obtained: Corti Brothers in Sacramento, a 64 year old Italian grocery that I had heard tales of for years, but not yet had the pleasure of visiting. Corti Brothers did not disappoint, with nearly 2-inch thick pork chops that were a pound each. We bought three, along with some other treats. A plan was coming together.

Back in the kitchen, I submerged the pork chops in a marinade of Wild Turkey Bourbon, sel gris, fennel seed, crushed red pepper and Pernod. The anise aroma of the Pernod filled the room, conjuring thoughts of a robust and complex cocktail. I figured the perfect opener to our pork meal would be a cocktail that offered a preview of the pork’s flavors—apples, anise, whiskey—an apple Sazerac cocktail.

Pork Chops in Whiskey Brine

I am a huge fan of rye whiskies, and, with the recent rye shortage, have been stocking up like a squirrel preparing for winter. I believe I purchased the last bottle of Wild Turkey Rye in the Sacramento Valley and recently acquired a dusty bottle of Sazerac Rye, a spirit that has been absent from the shelves of both liquor stores and bars for at least nine months. Bravely, like Abraham acting in faith but against judgement, I emptied nearly half of my Sazerac into a carafe over a chopped apple.

Apple Infused Rye Whiskey

I left the whiskey to infuse overnight, then strained the apples from it. Tasting it, there was a light sweetness, but the apple was barely noticeable, still trapped within the pithy fruit, along with some of my precious rye. I transferred the apples to a measuring cup and muddled them aggressively, then strained this juice back into the whiskey, creating a charming, apple accented rye.

Back to the pork. I chopped the white of two leeks, and sautéed them in some olive oil, then seared each of the pork chops over medium-high heat. Once the pork chops were seared, I stood them on edge, about half an inch apart, and filled the pot with 4 chopped apples. I reduced the heat to low, and added a couple ounces of water, then covered the pot.

Fill Pot with Apples

I left the pork to braise for about 2 hours, occasionally rearranging the apple pieces to sit lower in the pot as they softened, and flipping the pork chops once. After removing the pork chops and slicing them, I turned the heat up again, to cook down the apple and leek mixture for a few more minutes. I strained the apple-leek solids out to serve on top of the pork.

While the pork rested, I mixed up a batch apple Sazerac cocktails for our guests, which we served right before the food was brought to the table. The cocktails’ offered a perfect introduction to the pork, which was sweet and fruity with a hint of anisette.

Apple Leek Pork Chops:

3 lbs thick cut pork chops
2 leeks
4 apples
2 tbsp olive oil

For marinade:
1 cup whiskey
1/2 cup sel gris
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
2 oz. Pernod

Combine all marinade ingredients and cover pork for 12-24 hours. Chop leek whites and sautée in olive oil in large pot. Push leeks to side and sear each pork chop on both sides, 2-3 minutes a side. Chop apples into 1/2 inch pieces. Stand pork chops on edge and fill pot with apples. Add a few ounces of water and cover. Cook over low heat for 2 hours, turning pork chops once. Remove pork chops and increase heat. Cook leeks and apples an additional 10 minutes. Serve strained apples and leeks over pork.

Apple Sazerac Cocktail:

2 oz. apple infused rye whiskey*
1 tsp. 2:1 simple syrup**
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Pernod rinse
1 apple wedge

Rinse glass with Pernod and place apple wedge at bottom of glass. In a cocktail shaker, combine rye, simple syrup and bitters. Stir with ice for 15 seconds. Strain over apple and serve.

Apple Sazerac Cocktail

* Soak chopped apple in 12 oz whiskey for 24 hours. Muddle apples to release juices. Strain into a clean bottle for storage.

** Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water and cook over low heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to boil. Let cool and refrigerate.

52 Foods Week Two: Oranges

Story time: Every summer growing up, our family would pile into an often comically overstuffed car and drive 5 hours North of the Bay Area for Feather River Camp. The final 45 minutes of the drive were awesome: A tight, winding road cut into the sides of the Sierra Nevada mountains with multiple bridges that seemed to soar over the rocky river below. The four hours before this were pretty dull. One of my favorite diversions during the interminable drive was passing the many orchards. I loved to watch the perfect grids of fruit trees converge into straight lines then scatter back into a wall of leaves as we passed them at 60 MPH. It’s an effect that can still distract me on long drives.

I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the orchards I marveled at as a child belonged to Sparks Ranch, in Winters, from whom I recently acquired 10 pounds of oranges.


I love oranges, and especially fresh squeezed orange juice. It’s one of the few citrus drinks I enjoy. Similarly, about the only cocktail I’ll order that’s made with citrus is the Blood and Sand, a classic cocktail made with scotch, sweet vermouth, orange juice and cherry brandy. Most recipes call for equal parts of all the ingredients, but I prefer mine heavier on the scotch and lighter on the cherry brandy

The Blood and Sand is great, but I wanted to come up with something new, so I set to work tossing 3/4 ounces of orange juice into a cocktail shaker with a vast conspiracy of ingredients before arriving at this lovely thing. Since one of my favorite things about ordering a Blood and Sand is the way it conjures Camus’ L’Étranger, and since it contains the French apéritif Lillet, and since this cocktail is basically a Blood and Sand with a couple of ingredients out of place I’m calling it L’Étranger. See how I did that?


1.5 oz. London Dry Gin
3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz. Fresh Orange Juice
1 tsp. Cherry Heering

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

L'Étranger Cocktail