Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pork chops with cranberry sauce

I love to plan.  And, truth be told, I'm pretty great at it.  As far as meals go, you know that I work in one week increments, and it works well most of the time.  But, sometimes, I even outdo myself.  Stupid self, setting the bar so high.

Last week I made this scrumptious (and oh-so-simple) cranberry sauce for pork chops.  And there was some left, so I saved it.  And I used it again last night for another rockstar of a recipe.  I'm not sure which was better.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself, so I'll save that recipe for later.  Back to the chops.

Pork chops are such a tricky cut of meat.  So many folks (myself included) fear the overcooked dry and rubbery slabs of pork from our grade school cafeterias of long ago.  Sweet lunch ladies would then dump some can of mysterious gravy over said pork chops in an effort to rescue them.  Someone should've told them that said slop would've managed to ruin even the best steak in the world.

But, when cooked just so, pork can be tender and juicy, a perfect canvas to paint whatever kind of picture you want for dinner.  In fact, I'm going to give you my pork mantra: less is more.

Less trimming.  Less handling.  Less time.

Now that you're probably thinking I'm going to tell you that the pork will cook itself (hint: it won't), here's what you will need: butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

It's that easy.  Another trick with pork -- when you think you've seasoned it enough, add a little more.  Imitate those food TV chefs who look like they're bathing the meat in seasonings, realizing that some of it won't stick to the meat.  Pork is a rather mild-tasting protein and relies heavily on salt and pepper.  While I thought I was overdoing it, once I took a bite of the finished chop, I knew I had used just the right amount of s & p.

The original recipe called for half of an onion, which I planned on including until I foolishly roasted it the night before with other vegetables.  D'oh!

Some quick thinking led me to toss in some dried cranberries for some added body to the sauce.  Wowzers, that's all I can say!  The dried berries soaked up the flavors of the wine and broth and transformed into plump cranberries.  As if there wasn't enough sweet and slightly tart pizzazz to this sauce, in went the cranberry sauce.  But not without a little poking and prodding, natch.

It wiggles!

Some whisking over the heat while the chops were resting once finished in the oven, and it was (finally!) dinner time.  Do you say dinner or supper?  I usually say dinner, but I grew up with parents who said supper.  Just curious :)

This cranberry sauce totally jived with the pork chops!!  Like, went to get a spoon so I didn't dare lose any of that precious sauce good.   Stirring my veggies into the sauce good.  And, after I hesitantly (and easily, may I add) cut into the tender pork and took a bite, I was smitten.  Poor pork gets such a bad reputation.  If only people could eat pork like this, maybe they'd change their tune.  The rosemary was fragrant without being overpowering, and the plump cranberries added such texture to the smooth sauce.   More or less Less or more, you must make this immediately!
One Year Ago: Pumpkin bread

A few notes: While pork was an obvious choice for the protein, chicken and beef would go swimmingly as well with this sauce. And, though I didn't serve up mashed potatoes with this meal, I definitely will next time.  Learn from my mistakes, pals!

Pork Chops with Cranberry Sauce
(adapted slightly from The Pioneer Woman)
-serves 4

4 pork chops
Ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup cranberry sauce (the canned stuff is a-okay!)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Generously season pork with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy, oven-proof skillet over high heat. Sear the chops on both sides, using tongs to move it around.  Remove pan from heat and place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until thermometer inserted registers 155 to 160 degrees.  Set pork on a cutting board to rest.

In a separate skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add dried cranberries and cook for a minute, then pour in wine (if using) and chicken broth.  Add rosemary.  Stir together, then add cranberry sauce.  Whisk mixture over medium heat until thoroughly incorporated and cook for two or three minutes. Add more chicken broth to achieve desired consistency. Check seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed.

Place chops on platter and spoon cranberry sauce over the top.  Serve immediately with vegetables and possibly mashed potatoes.  Enjoy with a refreshing glass of red wine, if you dare :)

(Save any extra in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.  I've got a use for that extra coming soon...)

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