“Katherine! I heard we’re making pork chops today…is that true?” Annette asked Friday afternoon before class.
“Yes!” she said, perceiving her question as excitement about the dish.
“Like made out of real pork?”
“I can’t eat that,” Annette said, her face falling.
“Yeah, me neither,” Jalia added.
Katherine felt terrible. “I know that there’s a large Muslim community in North Philadelphia (where CPS is located), but I hadn’t even thought about it in relation to our class”.
I got the call when I was around the corner from the school. Incredibly, I was there early, so we improvised. Chicken goes great with apples. We found out were the closest market was and picked up chicken thighs with time to spare. What problem?
As usual, we read over the recipe together. “Wait, the onions go in the applesauce?” one of our cooks asked incredulously. “Ewwwwww.”
We made the recipe with the chicken thighs, in the Dutch oven, but also separately cooked the pork tenderloin since we had it. Needless to say our cooks went home with leftovers.
Because this was an easy recipe without a lot of chopping, there was lots of time to discuss technique. As Lucas browned the pork and Annette browned the chicken, we talked about not crowding the pan so the meat browns and doesn’t stew, about the tasty golden flavor morsels the browning creates in the bottom of the pan, how we had to be careful not to burn them, and about deglazing the pan which means adding liquid,scraping up the browned bits and letting them dissolve in the liquid. It also makes cleanup a lot easier. Lucas really loved learning about residual heat – how you didn’t need to keep the heat on until the end; the heat left in the pan can sometimes finish the cooking. Aniya and Jalia, aided by Katherine, measured and chopped the remaining ingredients. They came in just in time to hear most of the technique discussion. The apple slicer was a big hit as well as the extra apple cider that Katherine thought to heat up and serve.
I also got a couple sweet potatoes, which Anyia and Jalia sliced, seasoned with salt and cinnamon, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and roasted them while the chicken and apples and the pork cooked separately.
While everything was in the oven we cleaned up, then took a hot apple cider break and learned about herbs at I harvested from my garden. Borrowing an idea from the other volunteers, we found countries on the map that corresponding to some of the meals we had made. My
favorite trick question was “were does Greek yogurt come from?” Answer, the supermarket. Don’t worry, we still showed them were Greece was.
Katherine took a survey on what were our cooks’ favorite dishes and had them write down some thoughts about the cooking class so far, now that we’re halfway through. They answered three questions: What is your favorite dish that we’ve made so far and why? What have you learned that you want to show or teach your parents? Why are you excited to be in the cooking class?
A few stand-out answers:
“My favorite thing that we made is quesadillas because I learned that stuff can taste good with only vegetables.”
“[I want to teach my parents] how to save heat in the pan.”
“[I’m excited to be in the cooking class] because I learn new foods to make and teach my mom new things.”
When they finished we went back to the kitchen to finish the dish. The applesauce needed some reducing. The cooks tasted the sauce before it was reduced so they would have an idea why it was done. So as the flavors concentrated, we all watched as the liquid got syrupy. When the spoon left a trail in the bottom of the pan we knew it was ready.
The sweet potatoes were ready too, a fork was able to easily pierce the slices.
The kids LOVED it. After their first few bites, Lucas and Annette changed their answer to the first question we asked – the meat tied with quesadillas for the number one spot.
“Oh my gosh, this is the best applesauce I’ve ever had!” Aniya said happily – the one who had turned up her nose at the idea of onions cooked with apples.
When we suggested that we start cleaning up, Jalia protested. “But we’re still eating! It’s soooo good…we have to savor it.”
The dish was fabulous with the chicken thighs and was easier since you don’t have to worry about the meat drying out. I might take off the skin next time and add some thyme and rosemary. We did drain the excess fat before adding the onions, etc.
Here’s the link to the recipe: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/mydaughter/Pork-Tenderloin-with-Apples-and-Onions.html
Don’t forget you can support this program through the Vetri Foundation.