Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oregon-style Pork Chops with Pinot Noir & Cranberries

Months ago, shortly after our wedding, I saw this episode of 30 Minute Meals and was excited to try this recipe. The pork chops looked so good, and it's no secret that I love me some wine. Pinot Noir and I have become good friends. :-) I love the earthy and sweet tones in Pinot Noir, and even if it's not the right wine to serve with every meal, I'd definitely drink it every night if I could!

I was somewhat disappointed in this meal. I omitted the Oregon Hash that Rachael Ray created--lots of beets and kale and flavors that Graham and I aren't tremendously fond of. I DVRd the episode and it's been hanging out in our cue since December or January, but I didn't have enough time to watch it today. I got the recipe from FoodNetwork.com, but I have a feeling there were a few steps missing. The pork chops were bland to me, and they had been simmering with a number of different flavors for quite a while. I'm still not ready to write this off completely--I'll give it another go and then decide. Here's the recipe in its original form; my changes are at the bottom.

Oregon-style Pork Chops with Pinot Noir & Cranberries

4 (1 1/2-inch thick) boneless pork loin chops
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 turns of the pan
2 leeks
1 cup hazelnut or filbert nut pieces
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 cup Pinot Noir (recommended: Willamette Valley Oregon)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 stick butter, divided
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound crimini (baby portobello) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 pound shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
1 bunch kale, chopped, 4 to 5 cups
1 (15-ounce) can sliced beets, drained
8 ounces blue cheese crumbles (recommended: Oregon)
1 loaf crusty whole-grain bread
3 tablespoons chopped chives

Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Season chops with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to the hot skillet and the chops. Cook chops 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

While they cook, split leeks lengthwise, slice in 1/2-inch half-moon pieces and wash vigorously under running water in a colander to release sand. Shake to dry.

Preheat a second large skillet for your hash over medium-high heat. Add nuts to the skillet and brown 2 to 3 minutes then remove and reserve them.

To chop skillet, add another tablespoon extra and the leeks. Cook the leeks until tender, 5 minutes. Add cranberries and Pinot Noir to the pan. Scrape up the pan drippings and stir in chicken stock.

When sauce comes up to a bubble, add the chops back to the pan and reduce heat to simmer.
Finish cooking chops through, 10 minutes.

To the hash skillet, add a tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When butter melts into oil, add shallots then mushrooms and cook 5 minutes, then add kale. Wilt the kale into the pan and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

When kale is hot and wilted, add beets and gently combine. Adjust seasonings.

Preheat broiler.

Pull chops from their sauce. Raise heat and bring back to a bubble.

Cut off 4 thick slices of whole-grain bread. Char bread under broiler on each side while you finish the sauce.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to the sauce to give it gloss and weight and turn off heat. Pour sauce over the chops.

Serve hash alongside the chops and top with crumbles of blue cheese and reserved nuts. Spread charred bread with remaining butter and sprinkle liberally with chopped chives.

Notes:
  • I halved this recipe for our purposes, which was probably best. We ended up with a LOT of leftovers, even when I halved this.
  • Like I said, the pork chops were bland. I think next time I'll add garlic powder or onion powder in addition to the S&P.
  • There wasn't a leek to be found in either of my two local stores. I actually bit the bullet and went to Jewel, and they didn't have any either. I blame the tomato shortage--all my stores were low on veggies this week. I substituted celery and green onions for leeks. Next time, I'll add them later in the process because they didn't take long to cook down.
  • I had dried cranberries and dried cherries laying around in the "pantry" (a few shelves we threw together to give us more shelf space in the kitchen). They both added a nice body to the sauce, and it's fun to watch them plump up in the chicken stock and wine.
  • I toasted the hazelnuts in a small pan and added them to the dish right before serving. They really paired well with the berries and the wine. I used one of those handy 1/2 cup packages you find in the baking aisle. I almost skipped them in flavor of other nuts we have laying around the house, but I'm glad I didn't.
  • I steamed some broccoli and rice to serve with this. I added some of the berries to the rice as well, and everything seemed to make sense, meal-wise.
  • We skipped the bread, but I think that these chops--when flavorful--would be truly lovely with some nice toasted bread and blue cheese. Then again, Graham doesn't like blue cheese, so some butter would have to suffice for his dinner. :-)
  • Next time, I'm thinking I'll work on the chops and sauce separately--the pork chops had a great color after simmering in the wine, but like I said, not much flavor.
If anyone has any tips on how to make these a little more flavorful, let me know! I'll try this again, but probably not anytime soon.

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