8 & $20: Autumn Pork Chops with Red Rioja | Matchmaking | News & Features

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Juicy, golden-brown chops get a flavorful kick from apple cider, nutmeg and cranberry sauce, matched with a Spanish Tempranillo


Photo by: Samantha Falewée

These bone-in, center-cut pork chops usher in the fall season with ease.

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That’s all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you’ve got a feast for family or friends. That’s the philosophy behind our “8 & $20” feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

Here in New York, autumn blew in on a breath of chilly air around the first of the month, signaling the annual arrivals of fall foliage and fall menus. Food-wise, it’s my favorite time of year.

I welcomed the new season with a pork chop dish that will fill your kitchen with the enticing aromas of browning meat, nutmeg and apple cider. It’s a homey recipe that starts the chops cooking on a hot pan, followed by a simmer in cider. As the chops crackled in the pan from blush pink to golden-brown, I busied myself with an accompanying cranberry sauce spiked with honey, ginger, nutmeg and a splash of orange juice. From the warmth of a corner sofa, my ginger cat lifted a drowsy head and sniffed speculatively.

Overcooked pork chops are a sad, dry affair; use a meat thermometer and remove these from the heat as soon as the internal temperature hits 145° F. Bone-in, thick center-cut chops will be even juicier (and tastier) thanks to a little extra fat.

I had a range of wines to choose from with this dish—pork in general is one of the friendliest pairing proteins, equally at home with red, white, rosé and sparkling wines. I had hopes for a dry Alsatian Riesling, which would have made a lovely pairing with the pork chops alone. However, its pronounced acidity and citrus flavors proved a sour mismatch with the tart cranberry-citrus sauce and sweet cider. An off-dry Riesling may have been a better fit.

But a wonderful surprise was a Tempranillo from Spain’s Rioja region. It beautifully complemented the chops with its medium-bodied structure and light tannins; the cherry and plum flavors with aromas of strawberry, chocolate and orange peel matched wonderfully with the sauce. The nutmeg brought out a spice component in the wine as well.

Autumn Pork Chops à la Cranberry Sauce

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Approximate food costs: $25

Pair with a juicy red Tempranillo like Bodegas Carlos Serres Tempranillo Rioja Old Vines 2015 (87 points, $10).

  • 1 teaspoon cooking oil
  • 4 center-cut pork chops (almost 1 inch thick)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup apple cider (or substitute apple juice)
  • 1/2 cup of whole cranberry sauce
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated ginger

1. About 15 minutes before you begin cooking, remove pork chops from the fridge and let sit at room temperature. Meanwhile, heat a large pan on medium-high heat with cooking oil.

2. Season pork chops with pepper and set in the pan for 3 minutes, until golden brown. Flip and repeat.

3. Pour apple cider into the pan, reduce heat to medium and cover with a well-fitted lid to retain moisture. Cook for 6 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 145° F.

4. Combine cranberry sauce, orange juice, honey, nutmeg and ginger in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. When the pork chops are ready, turn off the stove and tent foil over the top of the pan to retain heat and let the meat rest at least 3 minutes. (If overcooking is a concern, rest them under foil on a separate plate.) Serve with the cranberry sauce and a side of vegetables like green beans. Serves 4.

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