Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Provençal Evening

A couple of years ago a friend asked me to become part of a newly formed book group for foodies. I readily agreed, knowing I'd not only be reading books on a topic I'm passionate about, but enjoying a thematic meal tied in with the book's subject and prepared by members of the group.
A recent choice was "Provence 1970," a book written by Luke Barr, the grandnephew of legendary food writer MFK Fisher. The book is a delight to read, recounting the year when Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard and other food luminaries were together in the South of France.
The meal prepared by members my book club was a wonderful way to capture the flavors of that beautiful region of France and pique my enthusiasm for my upcoming trip there. 
Our group is women only, but for this event, we decided to invite the men in our lives, even though the discussion of the book was given short shrift since not all the men had read it.
No one seemed to mind the abbreviated book discussion though, once all the food was presented.
We started with two appetizers: 
Emilia's pissaladière, similar to pizza, but with the traditional topping of caramelized onions, anchovies and olives.
      And it wouldn't be Provence without socca, a typical snack made of chickpea flour. 
Kay provided that, along with a delicious ratatouille that I forgot to snap, except in the last photo of this post.
Polly brought along a wonderfully refreshing salad with butter lettuce, goat cheese, wineberries and borage flowers picked from her yard:
Rosalie made a luscious plum tart for dessert.
 And her husband Evan even made some madeleines to share:
I took charge of the main course - pork chops with sage - a recipe I found in the cookbook, "Cooking School Provence" by Guy Gedda and Marie Pierre Moine.
Pork chops are easy to overcook, and once that happens, they're tough and dry. Marinating or brining helps, but knowing when to pull them off the grill or from the oven is crucial.
I don't use a meat thermometer for pork chops or steaks, but instead have learned to test meat with the finger test. It's got to have a little softness in it when you touch it, like the fleshy part of your hand. If you let it cook until it feels hard, then it's overcooked. It takes getting used to, but once you've mastered it, you'll never overcook meat again. Click here to get a more detailed guide on using the finger test for doneness of meats. 
These pork chops were smeared with Dijon mustard, sage and black pepper and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator. If you don't have all night, at least give it six hours to marinate. They were delicious the first time I made them, but when I repeated the recipe, I slathered on even more mustard and sage and the flavor was greatly improved.
Lolly brought along some fresh green peas, adding even more color and flavor to our plates.
If you're interested in starting a foodie book club, email me separately and I can give you plenty of book suggestions. Click here for a post I wrote years ago on books for foodies. Since then, I've got lots more titles to recommend.

Côtes de porc grillées à la sauge 
(Grilled pork chops with sage)
 From "The Provence Cookbook" 
By Guy Gedda and Marie Pierre Moine

 4 large, thick pork chops
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 1/2 T. grainy Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
10 fresh sage leaves

Cut slits in the fat at regular intervals around the pork chops, and season lightly all over with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, mix together the mustard (I used more) and oil. Coarsely chop and stir in 6 of the sage leaves (I used more). Arrange the chops in a shallow dish and brush both sides with the mustard mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Before cooking, return the chops to room temperature.
In Provence, the chops would be cooked in the hearth over pine cones for about 20 minutes, turned over regularly, and kept about 4 inches from the fire. Alternatively, grill over indirect heat or broil 6 inches from the flame, turning once, until cooked through but still juicy inside, about 15 minutes total, depending on the thickness.
Season with a little extra pepper and garnish each chop with a fresh sage leaf.

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Proud Italian Cook said...

Your group sounds so fun Linda. I'm definitely making those porkchops I have a ton of sage and it's screams fall, (although I'm not ready for it yet)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Fabulous food! So many great dishes.



Lucia from Madison said...

The pork chops sound delicious and I too have a lot of sage!
Love the idea of a foodie book club. I recently joined a book club and when it was my book I did a book themed meal.

Loved the book you read too!

Marisa Franca @ Allourway said...

It's a good thing I don't live near you because I'd be tailing you like a pathetic child whining to be invited along. Wow!! I love to read and I love to eat and the food looks scrumptious. What a combination -- stimulating food and stimulating conversation. Right now I'm saving a book for when we go to Saint Simons Island -- it is called Stir. I'd write down the author's name but off hand I can't remember. It is supposed to be very inspirational and food oriented. Excuse me but I'm going to go salivate over your dishes again. Buona serata

AdriBarr said...

I love your book club. It is such a good idea, and I wish I were a member. What a meal! Those pork chops are a must make.

Chiara Giglio said...

Che bella idea questo gruppo ! I piatti preparati sembrano deliziosi, ho dei bellissimi ricordi della Provenza e il tuo post me li ha fatti ritornare in mente, grazie ! Buon fine settimana Linda !

Claudia said...

I would love to start a foodie book club. But wonder if it would fall apart come January when nobody wants to go anywhere. I will be making those pork chops - I am a great fan of mustard and I have heaps of fresh sage. That plum tart is also calling to me.... and the peas.... and the madeleines.... oh dear.

Paola said...

What a marvelous way to bring like minded food enthusiasts together. Your post brought back many fond memories of one of my first mentors Lydie Marshall; a skilled teacher of French culture and food.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What a great idea for a group, Linda! The book and the menu you picked sounds wonderful. We love pork chops on the grill and would love to try this recipe as my beautiful golden sage is plentiful right now too.

Marcellina In Cucina said...

Your meal looks amazing! What a good idea!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Your pork chops look divine, Linda, and I love the idea of a foodie book club. I like to read books about food and chefs, etc, so I'd love if you sent your list of good books to read.

My sage has been wonderful this summer so I made veal and chicken saltimbocca with it a few times. This mustard and sage topping sounds fabulous too!

I have a wonderful sweet and sour vinegar pork cutlet recipe that I found years ago in Cucina Italiana I should share on my blog someday. I can't seem to get coordinated enough to get my camera out and take photos of what I cook lately. Maybe when I'm not babysitting quite as much I'll do some food posts again ;)

Roz Corieri Paige said...

What a fun group Linda! I love preparing pork with sage, they are such a delicious pair! I didn't know about the finger testing for pork and appreciate learning something new! Enjoy your trip to France!

Roz Corieri Paige said...

What a fun group Linda! I love preparing pork with sage, they are such a delicious pair! I didn't know about the finger testing for pork and appreciate learning something new! Enjoy your trip to France!