The moment I stepped through the front door of the Lewiston home Jennifer Gendron shares with her fiance, Jeff Carlton, I couldn’t wait until dinner. The aroma of apples was wonderful and the Oktoberfest pork chops that Gendron had begun preparing looked like the perfect meal for a cool, fall night. Hard at work chopping potatoes and apples, she talked about cooking with and without recipes.

Gendron said her and Carlton’s food tastes tend to be seasonal. The two grow vegetables and herbs in their garden in summer and utilize foods in season. She enjoys making her own salsa and guacamole, as well as trying out new recipes. On occasion, she tweaks some of her old favorites, giving them new life, like her grandmother’s pudding au pommes (apple crisp). Gendron says the recipe for that dish (find it on this page) was not written down anywhere because she grew up making it with her grandmother, Memeré Touchette. She said her grandmother liked making it a certain way, but allowed her to change the ingredients on occasion.

Carlton said Gendron often cooks off the cuff, experimenting with food combinations sans recipe. She only writes down her own recipes after she’s modified them. And the Oktoberfest recipe was no different; on this day she had decided to add white wine.

“There’s a bunch of spices; rubbed sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper,” said Gendron.”My secret ingredient — a little German-style wine.” Her choice of wine this night was from Tanguay and Son, a local winery.

After browning the boneless pork chops on both sides, Gendron removed them and set them aside. The pork will not be cooked all the way through, which Gendron says is OK because it will finish cooking when returned to the pot. In the same stock pot she layered chopped onions, apples and potatoes before returning the pork to continue cooking at a low simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.The recipe called for Cortland apples, but Gendron likes to use Cortland and honeycrisp apples for more flavor.

“It’s a stove-top, one-pot meal,” said Gendron.

Five things she says every kitchen should have are a vegetable scrubber, a stock pot, a good, sturdy stirring spoon, a baking dish and a baking stone.

“If you have a really good stirring spoon, you can get away with not having a slotted spoon or ladle,” said Gendron.

Ingredients that Gendron says her kitchen is incomplete without are
garlic seasoning, wine and, in general, the whole spice rack.

“If I couldn’t have a variety at my hands, I wouldn’t be able to cook as well as I want to,” said Gendron.

Gendron’s time-saving tip? Whenever possible, leave the fruit or vegetable peels on, just wash them thoroughly. They are loaded with nutrients, and peeling is time consuming. And for an easy clean-up, she said she cleans as she goes — but it also helps to have a fiancé that does most of it.

1 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. rubbed sage

1 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

1 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

6 boneless pork chops

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 apples, cut in wedges

5 lb. bag of potatoes, cut into wedges

1 large onion, sliced thin

1/2 cup cider

1/2 cup German white wine — Gewurztraminer (*Gendron’s secret ingredient)

Combine the flour and seasonings; sprinkle both sides of the pork with the mixture. In a stock pot, brown the pork in the oil over medium heat and remove. Add apples, onions, potatoes, seasoned flour mixture, white wine and cider; simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Place pork chops on the mixture, cover and continue heating on low for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are desired consistency. 

Pudding au Pommes (apple crisp without the crisp)

Up to 1/2 peck apples (about 5-6 lbs), cored and quartered, not peeled
1 to 1 1/2 cups brown sugar*
1/2 to 1 cup white sugar*
Sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired
Box of Jiffy Pie Crust Mix
*Amount of apples and sugar varies depending on the size of the baking dish used.

Coat inside of a 2-inch-deep baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Overfill the dish with apples by about one inch. Cortland apples are good for this recipe, but it’s all right to use what apples are on hand, like Gendron’s favorite eating apple, honeycrisp. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired. Next, sprinkle the brown sugar, gingerly mixing into apples, then the white sugar. Sprinkle all of the pie crust mix, moving top apples around just enough so some of the mix seeps down. Bake at 400 degrees for about one hour, or until house is fragrant with the smell of baked apples. Allow to cool and enjoy by itself or with ice cream or whipped cream.

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