Friday, November 1, 2013

Fall Notebook -- Dinner

Nigel Slater's new book Notes From The Larder has become my best friend in the kitchen. I love to cook at this time of the year. Butternut squash, cranberries, apples, pears, walnuts -- these are some of my  favorite ingredients. And no one does seasonal cooking better than Nigel Slater. He lives in London where he has a house and a kitchen garden. He is passionate about food and believes in cooking seasonally. This book reflects his satisfaction and contentment in the kitchen, doing what he loves best. His enthusiasm is contagious. And his descriptions are written in beautiful prose, bordering on the poetic. If you love to cook and consider your kitchen the heart of the home, you will be inspired!

The book is written as a kitchen diary, which makes it a very convenient source for cooking by the calendar. And so recently on a crisp fall day, I opened up the book for inspiration. I turned to the month of October to see what Nigel had been up to in the kitchen. Everything sounded cozy and delicious: warm eggplant tarts, duck breasts with damson gin and duck-fat potatoes, and pear and chocolate oat crumble.  As I moved ahead to November, I was stopped in my tracks at November 1st. Here was my recipe. Who could resist this description?

November 1:  A pan, a pork chop, and some pears

There are moments when a certain magic happens in the kitchen. Like tonight, when the sticky sediment left behind in the pan from cooking a pork chop met some cider (actually pear cider) and then some cream and became a sauce so delicious, so right for the season and the hour, that I felt my part in it was as little more than an observer...The pears, save those on the Winter Nellis tree, have been picked and need eating. They lose their charm in a pie and are too dry for a crumble. Two of them end up in a huge frying pan with four small pork chops, and together with the pan-crustings they flavor a sauce made with pear cider and cream. A rich dish for a chilly evening and a bit of kitchen magic.


Inspired to create a fall dinner from seasonal ingredients, I went to the Hollywood farmers market where I purchased some fresh pumpkin pasta and marcona almond pesto. I bought some pears from Frog Hollow Farm and picked some thyme from my garden. After that, as Nigel might say, the rest was "kitchen magic."

 Fall Dinner Inspired by Nigel Slater

Pumpkin Fettuccine tossed with Marcona Almond Pesto and grated Parmesan cheese
Pork with pears and cream
Roasted Brussels Sprouts

The pasta would be the first course, followed by pork chops with roasted Brussels sprouts on the side. Definitely a rich dinner, but very special for a chilly fall night. After spending 8 days in Italy, I am still feeling very Italian and love to start dinner with small portion of pasta, as they do in Italy. Especially when it is fresh pumpkin fettuccine! 

Pumpkin fettuccine tossed with pesto and grated Parmesan cheese

It couldn't have been easier: the fresh pumpkin pasta cooked in two minutes

Tossed with the most delicious pesto

It made a great first course

Pears and fresh thyme 

Cooking the main course

Next came the pork chops. After gently cooking the chopped pears, you saute the chops in the same pan. They have been coated with olive oil, fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper, which gives them incredible flavor. After the chops are cooked, they are removed from the pan. A sauce is made from the crusty goodness left over, some apple cider (I couldn't find pear) and cream.

The result -- a delicious dinner to file away under "perfect fall dinners"

Nigel Slater's Pork with Pears and Cream

a little olive oil
4 pork chops
4 sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
2 Tb. butter
3/4 cup of pear or apple cider
2/3 cup heavy cream

Lightly oil the pork chops. Strip the thyme leaves from their stems and chop them finely, then use them to season the chops, with some salt and pepper. Peel the pears, remove the cores, and cut them into large dice. Melt the butter in a shallow pan, add the pears, and cook until golden and approaching tenderness. Turn then now and again with a spoon, gently, letting them take on an even color. Lift them out and set aside. Return the pan to the heat, lower in the chops, and leave them to cook over moderate heat until they are done to your liking and have formed a sticky residue on the surface of the pan (probably about five minutes per side). Pour the cider into the pan and stir to dissolve the sticky residue. Leave to bubble and reduce till there are just a few tablespoons left -- a matter of three or four minutes so so. Pour in the cream, whisk lightly to mix it with the liquid in the pan, and let the mixture bubble down for a few minutes or so. Return the chops and pears to the pan. When all is thoroughly hot, check the seasoning and serve.


Happy November! This month officially kicks off the holiday season. A friend gave me this bundle of leaves from the oak trees at her home. It was a simple gesture but one that really made me smile. This time of the year always goes by so quickly and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Hopefully we can all slow down, enjoy our family and friends, and savor the simple pleasures of the season!


  1. Oh my that does sound and look delicious!
    I think I could make those chops and substitute Greek low fat yogurt for the cream and save a few calories....his writing is very evocative, no wonder you've been inspired to get busy in the kitchen.
    A beautiful post today Sunday, merci.

  2. Amapola...Villeroy et Bach...a longtime ago beauty! Love Domenicos!

  3. Sounds like perfection. I love the way "Notes from the Larder" is set up. I live to eat seasonally. I think it is healthier. Now I am craving pumpkin pasta! Have a wonderful weekend!

  4. I'm drooling and it's only 6:30 in the morning. I must start reading your food posts later in the day. That pesto looks amazing, I saw it on Heather's blog and am planning to order some.

  5. Beautiful oak leaves and an inspirational post, thanks Sunday.

  6. Sunday,

    Nigel Slater is a fabulous chef, I have several of his books but not this one. I will have it in my Amazon cart today

    Thanks for the wonderful suggestions.