PORK WITH JUNIPER BERRIES
It's cold and still snowing where I live, and that's unusual for this time of year, when the temperatures should be in the mid-50s and the bulbs should be pushing through the ground to send up their sprintime greenery. But since it's chilly and wet today, we're making a pork dish for dinner from an
Elizabeth David recipe in French Provincial Cooking, a cookbook my mother used for many years. The recipe, like all David's recipes, is easy, and it includes an unusual ingredient--juniper berries (above)--that gives the pork a slightly piney flavor. And indeed, juniper berries are the female seed cones of various junipers (in the cypress family, according to Wikipedia). Balanced against the contributions of bacon, garlic, and white vermouth, the juniper berries in this dish are subtle in the seduction of the taste buds, and for that reason, the dish is extremely satisfying.
To find juniper berries, try your local coop grocery or visit Penzey's--my favorite spice store, where everything is extremely fresh and beautiful.
PORK CHOPS WITH JUNIPER BERRIES
(adapted from French Provincial Cooking, Penguin Books, repr. 1970)
1-1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 medium onion
4 pork chops
4 small cloves garlic
8 juniper berries
olive oil for browning
salt and pepper, to taste
4 slices bacon
8 oz white vermouth
1) Layer half of the sliced potatoes and half of the sliced onions in the bottom of a Dutch overn (mine is cast iron and works beautifully for this dish).
2) Near the bone of each pork chop, put a clove of garlic and two juniper berries. In a large skillet, brown the chops on both sides in a little olive oil.
3) Put the browned chops on top of the potatoes in the Dutch oven. Cover with the rest of the potatoes and onion.
4) Season with salt and pepper to taste and cover with the sliced bacon.
5) Add the vermouth.
6) Put a piece of tin foil over the top of the pot, cover with the lid, and cook in a very slow oven (325 degrees) for about three hours.
Serves 4 and is delicious with cooked carrots for the side dish.