Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pork with Apples, Onions & Potatoes (#cookthebooksclub)

The Cook the Books theme for August / September is Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Several bloggers read this children's classic and cooked a dish inspired by it.

There is certainly no shortage of food inspiration in Farmer Boy!  It is basically an homage to abundant food (and hard work, and the joys of farming - but mostly food and vast quantities of it).

I have to say, I do think the food descriptions, especially regarding how much was at the table every day, is an idealized vision in several ways.  Farmer Boy describes a year or so of Almanzo Wilder's life - later in the series, we meet Almanzo out in Dakota Territory when Laura does, and eventually they marry.  But in Farmer Boy, his family has a prosperous farm in upstate New York.

So the descriptions of all this food is the memory of a boy of a time in which he no longer lives.  The availability of foods, both grown and acquired, would have been far more available in NY than in pioneer country.

It is also the memory of a boy recounting his mother's cooking - and we know how often that can be idealized by children (especially sons).

It is also Laura's description and vision of her husband's youth - which was very different from her roving pioneer life that often included a lack of food  and few choices, and the need to be very creative with what one had.

If it sounds like Thanksgiving every day, I have to imagine that that is how she saw it as Almanzo regaled her with long lists of dishes served up multiple times a day, or told her about the time he and his sisters used all the sugar making ice cream several times while their parents were away.

Lastly, though, Farmer Boy (and many of Laura Ingalls Wilder's series) was published during the Great Depression.  This book was food porn for children growing up in very difficult times - and it came with a message that promoted self sufficiency and hard work and a willingness to go without treats and baubles in order to invest in one's future as the path to overcoming the Depression and getting all that food.

So - I don't think they actually ate quite that abundantly every single day, but I do think the story well describes the types of foods that would be available on an upstate New York farm and eaten often.

I grew up in Nebraska, and was much more interested in the Ingalls' pioneer adventures - I think I only read Farmer Boy once for completeness' sake, and never put it back on the rotation.  The book passes through a year seasonally, and each season has its own foods and its own tasks, and it was very pleasant to have a chance to revisit it.

For my dish, I decided to go with Almanzo's self-identified favorite dish - Fried Apples & Onions.

'"What would you like best to eat?"
They talked about spareribs, and turkey with dressing, and baked beans, and crackling cornbread, and other good things. But Almanzo said that what he liked most in the world was fried apples ’n’ onions. When, at last, they went in to dinner, there on the table was a big dish of them! Mother knew what he liked best, and she had cooked it for him.'

For our table, I served it along with Pork Tenderloin (they would have had pork, although I don't know that tenderloin was a cut used at the time - chops or a small roast would also work here), and I added potatoes to the saute, mainly because I had a few potatoes that needed to be used.

Now, there is no description of how this was prepared other than 'fried'.  I think a bit of maple syrup
would have been used at least sometimes, but I decided to let the sweetness of the apples and cooked onions be the only sweetener.

Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Apples, Onions & Potatoes
Serves 6

1 package pork tenderloin (these usually come with 2 tenderloins)
3-4 medium apples, cored and diced (no need to remove skins)
1 large onion, diced
3-4 medium small potatoes, diced (no need to remove skins)
fat for cooking - I used olive oil and butter. Try bacon fat if you've got it)
Salt and pepper
Seasoning for pork as desired (I used a Penzey's blend - there are several that are good with pork)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup chicken broth

Season pork tenderloins with salt, pepper and other seasonings as desired.  In a skillet, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil or fat, and sear pork on medium high until it is browned (the inside will not be cooked yet).

Remove pork from heat and set aside.

Splash vinegar in the pan and deglaze, scraping up any stuck on pork bits.

Add about a tablespoon of butter or other fat.

Add apples, onions and potatoes to pan and stir to blend in the vinegar in the pan.  Let cook on medium high for about 10 minutes without stirring so they brown.  Then turn and brown other side for about the same time (watch for burning).

Stir and return pork tenderloins to the pan, nestling them down into the apple mixture.  Add broth to pan and cover to cook on medium for about 15-20 minutes or until the apple mixture is tender and the pork is cooked through.

Remove pork to a platter and let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing into medallions.  Serve alongside the sauteed apples, onions and pork.

Or, if you're Almanzo, alongside "creamed carrots and boiled turnips, and countless slices of buttered bread with crab-apple jelly", at least three different varieties of pickle, a half dozen various types of pie, some cornbread, and maybe a doughnut or three to hold off the hunger pangs while this is cooking.

I look forward to seeing what deliciousness other bloggers pulled out of Farmer Boy! Check out the full round up here.


  1. Great review and thoughts about the book. I agree that I think the abundance may have been idealized. It certainly made me hungry though. I'm glad you enjoyed the reread. I am the same way--preferring the stories of Ingalls family.
    Your dinner looks delicious. I think I am going to need to try those fried apples 'n' onions--strictly for research purposes of course. ;-)
    Thanks for joining in!

  2. Such an interesting post and I must read this book to my kids! The pork looks amazing and I love hearty dishes like this. Thank you for sharing with us over at Fiesta Friday!

  3. Those apples and onions are a big hit this month. Great minds in this club. I think you are probably right about the childhood memories. Everything seemed so much larger in childhood memories.

  4. I love pork and apples. This is a recipe I'll definitely try. Great post! Happy Monday!

  5. Great minds! Pork would be perfect for this combo (as I am wanting to add bacon to my recipe!

  6. I wanted to make it too, and will soon, paired also with a pork roast or ham. Yours looks very good indeed.

  7. I like pork but I have not cook it this way never before! It is a very interesting recipe and I will try it! Thank you for sharing at Sweet Inspiration Link Party :)

  8. This looks really good Lynda. I love the combination of pork and apples! I guess I am not aware of the farm boy series. Loved reading about it. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  9. I have a pork tenderloin in the freezer. It is apple season. Going to give this a go this weekend. Found you on Bloggers Pit Stop.

  10. I love the Little House series and this looks like a delicious meal! Thanks for sharing at The Blogger's Pit Stop! Roseann from

  11. Love the idea of Cook The Books. Will be watching for your future posts.

  12. I love this series and I am looking forward to trying this. Thanks for posting on the Friday at the Fire Station link-up. You will be the featured post this week!

  13. This is a great recipe - found you through the Linkup parties. I always overcook tenderloin so your instructions are perfect. Thank you

  14. I love the Apples and Onions with pork and I just recently made a recipe with onions and apples. Your recipe looks so good, makes me hungry. Hope you have a great weekend and thanks so much for sharing your post with us at Full Plate Thursday!
    Miz Helen

  15. It does indeed read like Thanksgiving every day. Also, even the crisis about corn freezing doesn't result in a large crop loss. Even without knowing the details of the biographies, the adult reader senses idealization of time and place past. Very nice recipe, Lynda.

  16. Love how you combined the book review with the recipe! It sounds yummy!! Thank you for sharing at ‪#BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty‬

  17. Apples and Onions and Pork are so perfect together!!! That sounds super delicious!