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.

Roasted Lamb With Balsamic Vinegar and Red Wine Jus

I am so happy to share with you another of my spoils from my visit to Gosling Pond B&B last weekend.

Late Saturday afternoon Kate brought me over to Fairy Tale Farm to meet her friend Jen. Nestled in the hills is the sweetest farm one could imagine. In a sloped and rolling yard, that is bordered by a stone wall (that Jen built herself) roams chickens, rooster, peacocks, guinea fowl and a very friendly turkey named Frank. In fact, he quite startled me by walking right up to me. He’s got quite the plumage reminiscent of an Indian headdress, and I couldn’t help but think of him as being on constant parade. Also on the farm there is Sally the goat, Biggie the boar (sacked out and snoring in his stall), and a horse who’s name I didn’t catch.

When we first arrived the peacock was displaying his gorgeous tail, while the peahen was on the other side of the wall peeking over. The greens and blues of his feathers were stunning even on that overcast afternoon.

In addition to growing and selling gorgeous produce in the warmer months, Jen also sells gorgeous eggs from her chickens. On the farm are several varieties of hens, and in the chick pen, were a new batch of even more varieties. The different breeds lay different colored eggs, enabling Jen to put together a stunning pastel array into her dozens.

It’s these lovely eggs that Kate provides to her guests each morning. Pretty bowls of pale blues, greens and tan eggs for breakfast. I’ve got a nice batch of those too- so look for a post (or two) soon using those.

But Jen doesn’t raise lamb, this meat comes from another friend’s farm down the road that Jen had got in trade. During our conversation about the politics of sustainable farming and the state of the farming community in their area, the subject came up that I loved lamb. Jen jumped up and pulled this piece out of the freezer for me and generously offered it as a gift. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

This is a super simple recipe that allowed the flavor of the meat to shine. This lamb is free roaming and super tender, and only a slight hint of gaminess. As an aside, I happen to love gamey lamb, but most in these parts prefer a neutral taste. As a result, much lamb is cultivated to appeal to that profile. As lamb goes, this was spectacular.
I made a quick warm fingerling potato with pesto for the side and washed it all down with a Chianti. As I sat at my table, looking out over my NYC view, I could only dream of going back up to see Kate when the fields are producing to gather more delights for my kitchen, and support all the farmers, to whom we all should be grateful.
Roasted Lamb with Balsamic Vinegar and Red Wine Jus
1 lamb roast (mine was a baby .75#)
cracked fresh black pepper and salt
scattering of garlic cloves- left in skins
healthy splash of balsamic vinegar
healthier splash of red wine
Sorry for the vague amounts, but this really needs to be done to taste.
Preheat oven to 425˚
Crack pepper onto a cutting board and add salt. Roll the meat in the mixture to coat.
In a pan you can place in the oven, warm some oil until almost smoking.
Add the meat and sear on all sides. There are differing opinions on this step. There is the opinion that searing retains the juiciness of the meat, not sure if that’s true or not, but I like the umami taste of seared meat.
Toss the garlic cloves into the pan and toss the whole thing into the oven. I used 4 cloves for this dish, but the more the merrier. If you don’t use them for this sauce, roasted garlic is great to just have on hand.
Roast for approx 12mins/pound for medium rare. I test by touch. When poked there should be some springiness to the meat but not bouncy. This is a practiced skill, my advice is to practice often.
When done remove the meat from the pan and set aside to rest while you make the pan sauce.
Deglaze the pan with some red wine, I probably used about a 2/3 cup. Scrape all the bits off the bottom. Squeeze the garlic out of the papers and mash into a paste. Add it to the sauce. Allow this to simmer for a minute or two.
Then add in the vinegar. I used about 3T and tasted it for balance. You want some acidity for brightness, but not to the point of making your nose twitch.
Allow the sauce to reduce for a few minutes and serve hot over slices of the lamb.