"Fall"-ing into Hibernation Mode

A weekend with nothing planned. It's practically unheard of in our house, and seems to have come at a great time. The leaves have been vacuumed by the city's leaf-sucking truck that reminds me of something from Dr. Seuss; the house is clean enough, although I should probably do a few loads of laundry; I've shut off my cellphone and the ringers on the landline, and nothing is really stopping my husband and me from hibernating for two full days. My personal goal is to stay in pajamas, cook a few decent meals, catch up on my magazines, and watch a couple of Lifetime movies. Chris has added "studying" to his list, since he's taking two graduate courses this semester, poor thing. I'll let you know how it turns out...

Saturday was a perfect day to sleep in. It was warm, yes, but also gloomy and rainy. When I woke up, I watched Anne Burrell's Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and was inspired to make an autumnal pork dish. I found a pork loin in the freezer and set it out to defrost. Dinner would be several hours away, but I felt like cooking, so I made an apple pie. I recently bought Ania Catalano's book, Baking With Agave Nectar and found her recipe for "All-American Apple Pie." Although it called for Granny Smiths, I only had one, but I had plenty of Macintoshes, so I used those, and I cheated on the pie crust, using good old Pillsbury. When it was done baking, I put the pie aside and began working on dinner. I sliced a Vidalia onion and put the slices into a large baking pan. I poured apple cider over the onions so they were about 3/4 of the way covered and then seasoned the mix with salt, pepper and a bundle of dried thyme. I chopped some fresh rosemary and garlic and added some dried sage and olive oil to make a rub for the pork loin, which I placed over the onions in the baking dish. I put the whole thing in a 425 degree oven for 25 minutes, then broiled it for a few minutes to turn it brown. While the pork was cooking, Chris cut three white potatoes into a small dice and tossed them with 4 ounces of diced pancetta. We cooked these, seasoned with salt, pepper and hot Hungarian paprika, in a cast iron pan, stirring often, until the pork was done. While we let the pork rest, we put the onion/cider mix onto the stove top, added a tablespoon of butter, and let it reduce into a sauce that we drizzled onto the pork. The pork was medium, barely pink in the very center, and very tender and well-seasoned. The "apple-cider sauce" had a nice sheen from the butter and was thick, sweet and tasty, with hints of the thyme and onion adding depth of flavor. The potato-pancetta hash was nicely caramelized, and as Anne Burrell says, "Brown food is goooood." A little while after dinner, we enjoyed dessert. Even with my substitutions, the pie was delicious. The agave nectar, used in lieu of sugar, allowed the tartness of the apples to shine through instead of being overshadowed by sweetness.

On Sunday, we were much less prolific. I spent the afternoon reading over half of a novel, while Chris whiled away the hours on the computer. Around 3, we decided to make our Buffalo-Chicken Pizza for dinner. Overall, it was a very relaxing weekend spent in hibernation mode.

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