Pork Loin with Cranberry Sauce
You all know that I am a huge proponent of preparation. Gathering the ingredients for a recipe before you actually start cooking or baking just makes everything easier in the long run. If you have everything you need before you start, you won’t have to run out mid-mix and beg the neighbor for a cup of sugar, and if everything is nearby and handy you won’t have to reach up to the top shelf for an ingredient while stirring something on the stove to keep it from burning. Putting in the time to properly measure and weigh the ingredients before beginning can save you loads of headaches. I am especially reminded about the importance of preparing things ahead of time each year around Thanksgiving. It’s a big meal and having things ready to go when you need them is a must. My mother has this down pat and actually has taken prep just a step further. I think it started for her when she was much younger. She, as well as my dad, had a full time job, plus she had to deal with four kids, a dog, a cat, a fish tank, and two birds. I don’t know why we had birds, but we did. Anyway, meal prep had to be simple and fast, because for her, there wasn’t much time between getting home from work and getting food on the table. We ate a lot of canned vegetables back then, simply because they were quick to heat up. I also think this is why we ate a lot of pasta as well, because it was something that could be made in a flash.
Over time my mother started to figure out shortcuts and time savers to make weeknight meal prep even faster. She would make meals in advance and/or use things like Hamburger Helper or Uncle Ben’s boil-in-the-bag rice. Around this time there was also a big push from magazines like RedBook, Good Housekeeping, and Woman’s Day on making life easier, faster, more convenient, and how to have all that and keep your hair shiny and manageable at the same time. Most of these magazines would usually always publish recipes on how to make a super-quick dessert using Cool Whip, because really, who can be bothered to take the time to actually whip up real cream? As well as the magazines promoting fast and easy food the frozen food market was booming as well. Back then no one really cared if meals were frozen (or purchased frozen) and reheated in the microwave in mere minutes, (a magical new device that we were told we would all be “better off” for). We ate our fair share of frozen TV dinners back then, you know the kind with the super hot cherry goop in one corner compartment, a section of peas and carrots in the middle compartment, and a small pile of mashed potatoes in the other corner compartment, and then “whatever the main course was” in the big compartment below all of those. My favorite was the Salisbury steak, even though I had no idea what a Salisbury was. The Crock Pot was also prominent back then, just throw stuff in it before you go to work and when you come home you have a hot meal waiting for you. Basically the idea was, get things prepared in advance to make it easy on you later. Life just couldn’t get any easier, could it?
Where all of this “making things quick and easy” and being prepared culminates for my mother is on Thanksgiving. It is on this day that we see decades of time-saving tips and meal prep shortcuts come to a head. Now, I have to say that for years I offered to come to the house early on Thanksgiving Day and help prep and prepare parts of the meal. The first year I offered to come and help my mother said “Great” and we even set a time that I would arrive. On Thanksgiving Day, I showed up at the door and went into the kitchen: I was greeted with a list of things that had already been accomplished.
Mom: “I have the turkey in the oven, the sweet potatoes are done and sitting over there on the counter under foil, the mashed potatoes are done, we’ll just reheat those in the microwave just before we’re ready to eat, I made the deviled eggs and they’re in the refrigerator already, the rolls are already on the sheet pan ready to go into the oven when the turkey comes out, the salad is already prepared, I made a fruit salad already, the cranberry sauce is done, the spinach dip is ready, the wine is chilled, the table is set, the candles are ready to be lit, I just have to make the gravy and carve the turkey when it’s done… and we’ll be ready to eat…”
Me: “But… it’s only 10 am”.
The following year I again offered to help with the meal, and I stressed she didn’t need to get up early to prepare food or make things so far in advance. I also thought I would be sneaky and arrive an hour earlier so I could be there to intervene. But when I arrived it was the same as the year before. Everything was ready, some food sat by the side of the stove covered in foil, ready to be reheated and others in bowls in the refrigerator under plastic wrap. So… there was only one thing left for me to do… put up her Christmas lights. And that, for a good number of years, became our Thanksgiving tradition.
You won’t really need to prep very much in advance for today’s recipe. The whole thing can come together in just about an hour, so no need to set your alarm to wake up at the crack of dawn. This is a simple pork loin, seared first then roasted in the oven and then topped with a kicked-up cranberry sauce. It goes perfectly with mashed potatoes and any kind of vegetable you like. I came across the recipe last year while bouncing around the web. It comes from Ree Drummond and you can see her post on this dish here. I like it because it’s relatively fast to make, it’s tasty, and it uses up things that I have in the fridge. Serve it with a big bowl of mashed potatoes and something green and you’re set. You should be able to find individual, prepackaged pork loins in most grocery stores and you can even just buy a can of cranberry sauce, rather than making your own if you like… whole or jellied cranberry sauce will work, it’s your choice. You’ll need a 10-inch cast iron skillet for the pork (or other heavy oven safe skillet), a separate skillet (medium sized) for the sauce, and a instant read or probe thermometer for checking doneness but that’s about it.
Here is how I made it:
1½ pound pork loin
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
½ onion, chopped
1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
½ cup red wine
¾ to 1-cup chicken broth
1½ cups cranberry sauce – more as desired
Preheat the oven to 425ºF, with the rack in the center position.
Rinse and dry the pork loin, trim the loin of any excess fat and then season well, on all sides, with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.
When hot, sear the pork on all sides, about 1 minute or so, on each side, or until nicely browned.
Leave the meat in the skillet and place it into the oven and cook until the center is 155ºF, which will take about 12 to 18 minutes. Use a probe or instant read thermometer to check for doneness. When the pork is done, remove it from the pan and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
While the pork is cooking though:
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a separate skillet over medium heat.
Add the onions and sauté them until they are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the wine to the pan and allow it to cook down slightly.
Add ¾-cup of the chicken broth and the rosemary and stir to combine.
Stir in the cranberry sauce.
Stir in a large spoonful, or two, of the juices from the pork pan, (once the pork is done) and stir to combine, cooking until the sauce is thick and saucy, but still spoon-able, adding more chicken broth or cranberry sauce as needed for the desired consistency.
Slice the pork and spoon the cranberry sauce over as desired.
That’s all there is to it. A good option for any weeknight and also fancy enough to serve on Saturday. In fact the flavor of this won’t change… no matter what day you serve it.