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.

Pork Chops in a Port, Juniper Berry, Orange Sauce with Individual Pommes Anna

Donna Hay stole my idea! I shot this meal a little over a week ago, so you can imagine my surprise when I opened the latest issue of Delicious and saw a dish that was so similar to mine I almost fell over!! The recipe is different, and she does not showcase pommes anna, but the char on the pork and the curls of the orange zest- almost identical!
Honestly it made me chuckle and put a certain little pep in my step. I love Donna Hay’s taste and style, so our dual pork chops gave me a sense of kinship. I have to say, I like the company I keep.
This recipe is packed with flavor and texture but not not packed with heaviness. It’s surprisingly light and a great Fall meal for those days that you don’t want to add any Winter hibernation padding.
The potatoes are a little fiddly, but a lot of drama for a little effort. I made each batch in small fry pans, you can get two going at a time if you’re serving more than a couple at a time. Just slip the finished potatoes onto your dinner plates and then before serving slide into the oven to heat them back up and as an added bonus warm your plates too.
The port I used was worth the flavor- and I was happy to tap into the bottle I had stored in my liquor cabinet- but you can opt to switch this out for a pinot noir if you must. It will be a different experience but easier to pull off.
Pork Chops in a Port, Juniper Berry, Orange Sauce
serves 4
4 boneless pork chops, 1″ thick
1c port
2 cloves crushed garlic
2T juniper berries
4 bay leaves
3T brown sugar
zest from half orange
s & p
In small bowl combine all the ingredients except the pork. Muddle the garlic and zest a bit to release their oils into the port. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes until the sugar completely dissolves.
Place the mixture into a shallow pan and arrange pork to allow to marinate. This should be for at least 15 minutes each side, but can be longer.
Turn oven on to 375˚ and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment.
In frying pan with a glug of cooking grade olive oil, saute the pork about 2 minutes on each side over a medium high heat. Then slip the chops onto the baking sheet and slide into the oven. Allow to roast for about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile add the marinate into the pan with the pork drippings and gently cook to develop a light sauce. 
Individual Pommes Anna
4 starchy potatoes peeled and sliced super thin on a mandoline
2 cloves garlic sliced paper thin
1t butter per potato cake
1t olive oil per potato cake
s & p
In a small frying pan heat the olive oil and butter together until sizzling. Arrange the potato slices in a circular pattern. There should be at least 2 layers. There is no great science here, so feel free to overlap as little or as much as desired. Try to keep the ring about 4-5″ in diameter
Interleave some garlic into the potato slices and sprinkle generously with s & p.
Cook the potatoes without disturbing them for approximately 4 minutes. If you’ve made a cake that his thicker than half an inch place a lid over the pan to facilitate even cooking.
After the 4 minutes carefully slip a large spatula under the pan and slide/pull the cake off the pan and then flip over. The starch in the potatoes will make the cake stick together but it’s still a little fragile. If it breaks, just tuck it back up. No one will know.
Cook the potatoes on the other side for a few minutes until cooked through. You can test this by piercing with a fork. The potatoes should give way with ease and not resist.
Slide the cake onto a serving plate and place pork chop on top. Spoon a little sauce over each and accent with the zest.