So after seeing a million heart warming commercials showing moms make delicious and wholesome meals for their families with the help of McCormick's Recipe Inspirations, I got suckered into to buying this product. Well actually, my boyfriend picked them up for me while he was out at the store because he's a sweet heart and remembered me gushing about them. Of the options currently available in our area: Quesadilla Casserole and Apple and Sage Pork Chops, he (much to my delight) selected the Apple and Sage Pork Chops recipe.
First, I'll be honest. I made a few modifications. First, I cut the recipe in half as it is only my boyfriend and I, not a family of four. So, I mixed all of the dry ingredients as directed---this amounts to 4 tablespoons of dry mix---and cut it half, reserving the other two tablespoons for another pork chop day. So with two porkchops (center cut, 1-inch thick), some seasonings, and a dream I proceeded to follow the recipe as written on the card.
I sprinkled half of the flour mixture on both sides of the chops and browned them to get a nice crust on them, then removed them from the pan. Easy enough. Then I added the cut onions (I used purple instead of white onions because I think they hold more flavor) and sauteed them. This is another instance where I broke the rules...I added a bit more olive oil to the pan because there was clearly not enough oil in that pan to caramelize the onions. After cooking the onions, I added the apples and broke the recipe again. Earlier I mentioned that I halved this recipe, which would meant that I would use one, instead of two apples. But after thinly slicing half of an apple I felt this to be more than sufficient and put it in the pan to soften up. Once the apples and onions were done I added in a quarter cup of apple juice (half of the recommended 1/2 cup) and 2 teaspoons of brown sugar (also roughly half of the directed amount) and finally the remaining flour. I stirred and surprisingly no lumps! (Despite being from the south I am gravy making challenged so I get worried when recipes instruct me to add flour to liquids).
Now that I have this snappy sauce I reintroduced the pork chops to the love fest, covered them, and let them simmer. This is where I had to get creative. I tasted the the sauce and it was way too sweet for my taste not to mention that it was a bit thick. So I added some warm water and sprinkled the chops and sauce with kosher salt and some fresh cracked pepper. This defiantly brought things down to an edible and savory sweetness for my palate. The smell was overwhelmingly sage-y, which concerned me but I was hoping this would cook down. Aside from that, I was pleased with the smell and appearance of the dish.
After simmering until the chops were done it was finally time to try this suckers! My boyfriend is a picky eater so we usually have differing opinions on food. Not this time. We both agreed that the chops were tasty and moist, and that the apples and apple juice added a nice sweetness. But, we both felt that they were way over saged, and I personally thought the thyme was over the top. Sadly, the striking presence of the sage and thyme killed the cooked apples, so we both ended up not eating those. However, even with this recipe having more herbs than Thanksgiving day dinner, we were happy with our meal.
I was attracted to these inspirations because they allow you to try a new recipe without investing in a whole bottle of a spice you may not use again. Plus, you get a nice recipe card for your recipe book which I like, call me old school. After trying the apple and sage chops I will invest in these spices and herbs, but modify the recipe that is on the card to make it a.) for two people and b.) not over herb-y. I'm sure this is a criticism that would ring true for the other variations of the the Inspirations. Also, while I found following a recipe annoying as I'm more of a touch and taste chef, this is great for novice chefs and college students tired of cafeteria food and don't have long-term interest, space, or money to invest in a ton of spices. Finally, I think this is great marketing! You buy this card with six spices that you many not normally buy, cook (hopefully) an amazing meal, and then you're inspired to buy the full bottle so that you can tweak the recipe as you see fit. Bravo McCormick, Bravo!