I am ashamed to admit that despite living in a state where cranberries are the state fruit and number one produce export, I’ve never cooked with fresh cranberries. Because I’m not a fan of cranberry sauce, a Thanksgiving staple here in the United States, I generally tend to ignore the bags of cranberries piled high in the produce section each November. But this year, the tiny ruby red berries looked too attractive to bypass, so on a whim I bought a single humble bag and vowed to try out some new recipes.
After a successful batch of cranberry applesauce, I tried this pork chop recipe out on my brother, Michael, for his birthday dinner. Normally I don’t test drive new recipes on dinner guests, especially on their birthdays, but Michael, bless his heart, never leaves a morsel on his plate, can be talked into second and third helpings, and always thanks me “for the best dinner” even if it wasn’t my best, or even close. Lucky for Michael and the rest of us, the pork chop cranberry experiment was successful. The sauce is complex and savory, balanced nicely with the garlicky Swiss chard and the simply roasted chop. I served the dish with salad and quinoa pilaf but a crusty baguette and glass of red wine would be just as good.
Pan-roasted Pork Chops with Cranberries and Red Swiss Chard
adapted from Gourmet, November 2001
for the Swiss chard:
2 medium shallots, minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lb (450 g) red Swiss chard, stems and center ribs cut out and chopped together, leaves coarsely chopped separately
for the pork chops:
4 x 1 1/4-inch-thick rib pork chops
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
for the sauce:
2 medium shallots, minced
1/2 cup (120 ml) dry red wine
5 oz (150 g) fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
3/4 cup (180 ml) chicken stock or broth
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled
2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
To prepare the Swiss chard, cook the shallots and garlic in butter in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over a moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the chard stems and center ribs and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chard leaves and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Season the chard with salt and pepper, then transfer it to a bowl, cover the bowl with a lid or foil (to keep the chard warm), and wipe out the skillet.
Pat the pork chops dry and season them with salt and pepper. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet over a moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown the chops, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chops until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally 2 inches into the meat registers 155°F, 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer the chops with tongs to a platter, leaving the fat in the skillet, and cover the chops loosely with foil to keep warm.
Make the sauce by sauteing the shallots in the fat remaining in the skillet over a moderately high heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze by boiling over a high heat, scraping up any brown bits, until reduced by half. Add the cranberries and stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to burst, about 2 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and thyme and simmer, stirring, until the berries are collapsed, about 3 more minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the butter until incorporated, then season with salt and pepper.
To assemble the dish, divide the chard among 4 plates and top with the chops, then spoon the sauce over.