Winter Jewels: Pan Roasted Pork with Ruby Cherry Berry Sauce

Jewel colored Cherry Berry Sauce magically turns simple pan roasted pork chops into a regal winter meal. I’ve become a devoted Downton Abbey fan {Am I the only one that converses in “Downton Abbey Speak” after viewing the show? ~”Why yes, I think I shaaall have another piece of toast. Thank you ever so much…”} I will admit that I had the show on my mind when I created this meal. With it’s rich color I could can easily imagine this dish coming straight out of Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen and onto the Lord’s table.

In addition to that, this time of year I’m always looking for ways to sneak more fruits into my diet. I can’t help but eye suspiciously at off season imported fruits from far away lands. Luckily I have no problem turning to a trove of frozen summer fruits. The winter can feel a bit bleak at times, and the beautiful color of this sauce is another good reason to make it.

I’ve never been a huge fan of pork chops. It was so deeply drilled into me as a young woman that to avoid the dreaded trichinosis that pork had to be cooked to within an inch of it’s dry life. It pains me to recall the terrible looks on my children’s faces when I set before them a lovely pork chop, that they had to saw at, with aggressive fervor, in order to get at a piece. Then there were the blinking stares as they had to chaw on, and eventually swallow, that tough bite. My poor dears, no wonder it was never a favorite.

Recently I did a little reading up on the subject. It turns out that things in the pork world have changed since my long ago days in Home-Ec. Back then we were instructed to bring the meat up to an internal temperature of 165˚- which, as my children experienced, is “hockey puck” temperature. Thanks to better raising techniques, and better understanding of food preparation safety, an internal temperature of 140˚ will kill off any unwanted “bugs”, and yield a delicious and juicier meal.

I also came across various cooking methods and feel like I’ve hit on a winner. Some were a bit complicated. This version does have two steps, but it’s well worth it, and I’m excited to share it with you.

Pork meat is quite lean, with only fat running along the outside. Which makes it wonderfully healthy to eat, but not always the tastiest. To make a really juicy pork chop I first brined it for about 30 mins, which worked out perfectly as I used that time to prepare the sauce and side dishes. Then, using a medium low heat, I gently seared the meat, after which I tucked it into a moderate oven for finishing off. The result was a lovely golden sear on the outside, and juicy delicious meat on the inside.

As you can see, the result is a pale pinkness to the meat and even some pale pink juices. According to the USDA, this is more than ok and healthy to eat. I know, I know… it’s hard to let go of those “laws” that we were forced to swallow, but it’s time to let all that go. I promise it won’t make you at all ill, and you’ll want to thank me {EVER so much}.

Pan Roasted Pork Chops with Ruby Cherry Berry Sauce
I used Port wine in the sauce, which you can switch with a fruity red wine, or substitute with cranberry juice. The butter in the sauce also adds a lovely roundness to the flavor, but switching to olive oil works perfectly if you prefer.
Serves 4
4 lean, center cut pork chops
.75c kosher salt
.75c sugar
4c cool water
1T butter
.25 c onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
.5c port wine
.25 c balsamic vinegar
2c frozen red cherries
2c frozen blackberries (or any other berry available)
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine the water, sugar and salt- stir to dissolve. Add the pork chops and allow to sit for at least 30 mins.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and gently sauté to release the aromatics and soften.
Add the port and allow to gently simmer for 2 minutes. Then add the vinegar and fruits and reduce the heat to low.
Allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened and reduced. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
To prepare the pork:
Preheat the oven to 350˚. 
Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine. Score the outside fat down to the flesh every 2″ to prevent curling in the pan.
In an ovenproof sauté pan, lightly coat pan with cooking spray and place over medium low heat. 
Add the pork chops and gently cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Then place the entire pan directly into the middle of the oven.
Roast for an additional ~10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the meat. When poked, the meat should be springy but still yielding- what would be considered “well done” beef
Remove the pan from the oven, and remove the chops to a warmed plate. Allow the meat to rest for 5- 10 minutes before serving.
Pour the cherry berry sauce into the sauté pan which contains the pork chop drippings. Gently warm and stir to incorporate. You may omit this step to reduce fat content.
Serve the sauce warm over the pork chops.

{Day 3} The AFTER treat: Biscotti

Rosemary Lemon Biscotti served with Homemade Chamomile Cordial

Biscotti is always the “after”. Afternoon, after dinner, after a long morning…. This crunchy treat offers a mild sweetness that is just the right kind of soft kiss an after requires.I try to keep a jar of these around- but they have a great tendency to disappear in short order. Though the baking of biscotti is a two step baking process, the good news is this recipe is so simple that it only takes minutes to pull it all together and create a new batch. Not too long ago, right before a dinner party I decided a gift of wine was just not enough to bring along- so while I showered the first baking was complete, and while make up was applied, the second go round was finished off. I can’t say I recommend this method, but it can be done when you need to.

The secret to this recipe is that these are made with Olive Oil rather than butter, which is always on hand and no need to wait for it to soften like butter does.

I created two versions for today. The first is a Lemon Zest and Rosemary, which is really lovely as a digestive. I serve it up with some gorgeous Chamomile Cordial that I made. {The recipe will be in a future post} These two together offer a soft sweet ending to a long meal. No cloying thump to your sensibilities here.

The second version is Dark Chocolate Cherry. Chunks of 72% chocolate are tossed in with plump dried cherries. This is a slightly sweeter version than above and it perfect for that afternoon pick me up.

When gift giving it’s best to package these up into cellophane bags- which you can get from Glerup {see Resource page} The cellophane not only makes a beautiful presentation but also keeps the biscotti crisp and snappy.

Lemon Zest Rosemary Biscotti
makes 24-30
.5 c mild olive oil
.75c granulated sugar
.25c Light brown sugar
3 large eggs
3.25 c AP flour
1T baking powder
1/4t salt
2T chopped fresh rosemary
zest from one lemon
juice from one lemon
In a large bowl combine sugars, flour, bp, salt, rosemary and zest. Stir to combine
In separate bowl combine eggs, oil and lemon juice- mixing thoroughly
Toss the oil mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine. I use my hands to get the dough even. It will be a little thick and like a soft cookie dough.
Make two long logs about 3″ wide on a baking sheet
Bake in a 375˚ oven for approximately 20 minutes until golden and there is only a gentle spring when the tops are touched. If it gives too much the biscotti are not done in the middle and give it another few minutes.
When ready remove the biscotti from the oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes. I am always impatient about this but it’s really worth the wait, the slices will be neater.
When cool(ish), using a sharp serrated knife cut the biscotti into 1/3″ slices and arrange on cookie sheet.
Return to oven and bake 10 mins until golden and toasty looking. Then flip each cookie and bake again for another 10 mins or so.
Dark Chocolate Dried Cherry Biscotti
I used the exact same recipe as above with these changes:
Replace the rosemary, lemon zest and juice with a .5 c of dark chocolate chopped into chunks and .75c of dried cherries
and remember- the cordial recipe is coming soon- sign up for the mailing list and be sure not to miss it.