Cranberry Pork Chops

This meal is meat and potato-y enough for Sunday dinner, but also no-nonsense enough for any old time.  My cranberry version of this pan-seared pork chop evolved from a recipe my Mom made when I was a kid called Pineapple Pork Chops.  These pineapple topped pork chops were a staple in my house, and I never think of canned pineapple without remembering home.

Over the years when I found that I didn’t have a can of pineapples on hand, I’d substitute juice or chicken stock for the pineapple juice that her recipe called for.  The result is something that I like even better and looks pretty fancy, even though it’s not at all.  Pan-searing pork is a great method no matter what liquid you choose, and unless I have the grill fired up, I don’t cook pork chops any other way. The result is dependable and moist every time, a stark contrast to the tough and dry pork I’ve made in my oven. 

Plus, it’s kind of nostalgic for me, which is fun.

Cranberry Pork Chops
serves 3

3 pork chops *
1 cup of cranberry juice- I use Old Orchard
2 T brown sugar
2 t cornstarch
Craisins (optional) 
One sauté  pan with a lid or enough aluminum foil to cover

*You can use bone-in or boneless.  When I am using Costco’s chops, I butterfly them so they aren’t so thick and there is more caramelized edge per bite.  If you prefer thick chops, double the cooking time on step four.

1.15 Minutes before cooking, coat pork chops in Olive Oil, salt and pepper on both sides and let rest.  The entire cooking process only takes about 9 minutes, so start your potatoes, broccoli, or whatever first.  Set a stainless steel sauté pan over high heat and let the pan get hot.  Your oil is already on the pork chop itself, so don’t add any oil to the pan.  (A non-stick frying pan will also work, but not as well.)

2. Add pork chops to the hot pan.  Don’t crowd the pork chops, and don’t move them once they touch the pan.  I can only fit three pork chops in my frying pan.  You can double the recipe by heating up two pans, or cooking in batches.  A crowded pan will ensure that you eat steamed meat instead of pan-seared. 

3. Cook the chops for three minutes on each side, or until there is a nice brown sear on the meat.  Measure 1 cup of juice into a measuring cup and turn the pan down to medium heat.  Sprinkle each pork chop with brown sugar, and add just enough juice to cover the bottom of the pan, reserving the rest.  Cover the pan and turn down to low. 

4. Cook three more minutes or until a cooking thermometer reads 170 degrees.  Once the pan is covered the chops cook quickly, and this is the most crucial part.  If you overcook the meat at this stage, it will be tough.  Start checking with your thermometer after about two minutes.  Thin chops will cook faster, and thicker ones may take up to five minutes.  The size of your pan will also have an effect, so I guess the point is, use your thermometer, and don’t get distracted and forget to check.   

5.  Remove pork chops from the pan and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.  Whisk 2t cornstarch into the reserved juice and add to the pan.  Increase heat to med high and continue whisking, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is thickened.  Drizzle over the pork chops and serve with Craisins, if desired.  (My family would flip out if I put dried fruit on their meat, so use your judgment.)

Note:  I have also successfully used apple juice to make these pork chops.  The gravy is very sweet, though, and I think Cider works better.  If all I have is apple juice, that’s what I use, and it’s still great.  Plus, a little sweetness is nice every now and again. 


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