Cranberry Country pork chop

A plate with a Cranberry County pork chop, along with rice, peas and a parsley garnish, prepared in the kitchen of Steve and Bobbe Rundio.

I love cooking. Thanks to the special section you’re reading right now, I got an excuse to haul out the cast iron skillet and produce one of my favorites: Cranberry County pork chops.

The recipe is ridiculously easy:

Melt some butter.

Season four inch-thick boneless pork chops with salt, pepper and rosemary.

Place chops in pan and cook covered over medium-high heat for six minutes on each side.

Remove chops and tent with foil.

Pour a cup of cranberry juice into skillet and cook until liquid develops a syrupy consistency, about five minutes (use a splatter screen).

Pour over pork chops.

Recipe can also be done with one, two or three pork chops (more than four crowds the pan). Rule of thumb: A quarter cup of cranberry juice per chop.

That’s it − it’s that simple. For a minimum of three ingredients, you have something that looks like it was produced on a cooking show.

I stumbled onto this recipe by pure accident. Originally the recipe for was apple cider pork chops, but it became apparent that any liquid could be substituted. I also tried cranberry wine but found it too bitter. Cranberry juice is my first choice because it pairs well with rosemary, and nothing beats the color of deep red cranberry juice tinged with golden buttery highlights.

Can you substitute chicken? Been there. Beef, lamb or fish? Haven’t tried them, but it’s possible, I suppose.

Want to add ingredients? Add finely minced onions into the sauce during reduction or saute mushrooms on the side and spread them over the top.

Side dishes? I often cook rice because it soaks up sauce and always is available in the pantry, but if you want a really colorful dish, a side such as beets, carrots, peas or asparagus makes for a picturesque plate.

The neat thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t require culinary genius. Anybody can do this, and it takes barely more effort than jumping in the car and waiting in line at a fast food restaurant. And it’s far more relaxing. The kitchen can be a terrific place to unwind as long the cook sticks with simple recipes that utilize quality ingredients.

A while ago, I remember an article in which a nutritionist was asked advice on healthy eating. The response: “Eat food.” Translated, it means eating meals prepared with unprocessed ingredients. I admit to eating junk I describe as “rat poison” (frozen burritos) or “food-like product” (shelf-stable microwavable dish) − they’re quick and often are the only calorie-rich meals that fit into a hectic work day. And, hey, they come close to resembling actual food.

But the most satisfying meals are those my wife Bobbe and I cook from scratch and enjoy together. Cranberry Country pork chops count among the great pleasures in a busy life. It’s amazing what a cup of cranberry juice can do.

Steve Rundio is the editor of the Tomah Journal.

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Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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