Worknight Dinners: Cranberry Balsamic Pork Chops with Caramelized Shallots

by Maris Callahan on May 10, 2009

The United States has laws separating "church and state" that dictate a clear division between religion and politics. Yet, religion and politics are often lumped together as two taboo topics – inappropriate to discuss in most social or professional situations.

Neither topic has ever especially bothered me – I enjoy an occasional healthy debate and think it's interesting to hear new-to-me opinions about topics on which I'm not an expert.
Yet, throughout my life I've found my own religion at the center of many conversations.

I was raised Jewish, but with a twist if you will. My mother grew up in a conservative Jewish family while my father is Catholic. Though the contradictory presence of the Christmas tree and menorah that graced my living room every December was confusing to some, it was all I knew. Didn't everyone celebrate Hanukkah AND Christmas?

Sometimes my classmates would correct me when I said I was Jewish. "If you celebrate Christmas," they'd say. "Then you're half-Jewish."

Though religion is a personal choice for everyone, I don't know if I can be "half" of two religions that hold contradicting values. I don't think you can half-believe that J.C. was the Messiah and you can't think he's "kind of divine." Isn't that like being "a little bit pregnant?" Impossible.

In any event, my "religious beliefs" do allow me eat meat on Fridays during Lent and bread during passover. I also eat pork, an item from which most practicing Jews abstain. More specifically, I make pork chops on a whim, because I've never made them before and I'm trying to learn to cook meals beyond pastas, chicken and chili.

By combining a few of my favorite meal staples – shallots, balsamic vinegar and spinach, you can whip up a great meal in under an hour (not to get all Rachael Ray on you, this could easily take someone thirty minutes…but I try to clean as I go and usually wind up making a bigger mess, so I cushion my estimates. I don't want anyone missing American Idol because they tried to make my pork chops).

Cranberry Balsamic Pork

Cranberry Glazed Balsamic Pork Chops

(Serves 2)


2 lean, boneless pork chops

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small shallot, diced

1/2 cup fat-free cranberry salad dressing (I used Maple Grove Farm Vermont Gourmet)

1/4 cup Baslamic Vinegar

1/2 cup white wine

10 oz fresh baby spinach, steamed or sauteed

2 Tbsp. corn starch, dissolved in 2 Tbsp. warm water


1. Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and place in skillet, cooking until chops are lightly browned, abut 5 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and set aside on a plate covered with foil to keep warm (I placed mine in warmed oven).

2. Add enough olive oil to re-moisten the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the shallots, and cook until they begin to carmelize into a deep brown color. Add cranberry salad dressing and balsamic vinegar and let simmer for about 3 minutes, or until combined.

3. Add white wine and turn down heat. Simmer sauce until it begins to reduce and thicken (if sauce has not thickened after 5-7 minutes, add corn starch mixture and stir until combined. Serve pork chops over warm spinach and top with sauce.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

elra May 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

Your Cranberry Glazed Balsamic Pork Chops, looks so scrumptious. It making me hungry right away.


Pearl May 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

i love your writing :) .


Rachel May 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

Brian loves pork chops. I will definitely be making these. Thanks for sharing Maris.


Home with Mandy May 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

I’ve never seen the use of cranberry salad dressing – loved that you combined it with balsamic vinegar, wine, shallots and then reduced. Really love this combo, great post!


Heather May 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

that looks just delicious. i love something tangy and sweet for pork.


Meg May 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

This looks awesome. I especially like the cranberry glaze!


Joanna May 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

Ooh… as a fellow pork-eating Jew, I have to say, this look delicious. Pork chops seem to pair really well with sweet fruity sauces, I’ll have to give this one a try!


Catherine May 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

A perfect weeknight meal if I ever saw one!


Melissa May 11, 2009 at 3:00 am

The chops are lovely. With the balsamic and shallots mixed with cranberry flavor, it’s got to be a winner. Plus, it has spinach, so it can’t be bad.
I love pork and can’t imagine not eating it, or having it as an option to vary my meals. And I’m also Jewish 100% all the way down my ancestral line.
We also celebrated both holidays some years. Then mostly just Christmas because my parents liked the lights and tree and stuff. I know, I know. But I was a student of all religions as a kid because of my parents’ curiosities, and still am. It’s one of my favorite topics of conversation, in fact.


E.P. May 11, 2009 at 3:00 am

Yum! I’m definitely making these this week!


Joie de vivre May 11, 2009 at 3:00 am

This makes me laugh. Yes, I think being “a little bit Jewish” or a “little bit Catholic” is like being “a little bit pregnant”. Your parent’s are a wonderful example of how people can work out differences and love each other.


Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella May 11, 2009 at 3:00 am

I liked your preamble Maris! Meanwhile those pork chops looks so luscious! :o


kat May 11, 2009 at 3:00 am

That flavor combination sounds fantastic!


Erin May 11, 2009 at 3:00 am

You know, I really love pork. And cranberries taste great with it too. I have a cranberry orange stuffed pork chops recipe in my blog that I adore. I must admit though, as much as I like balsamic vinegar, I don’t know that I’ve ever had it with pork! I’m definitely bookmarking this recipe, and maybe I’ll try it next time I see pork on sale.


Blond Duck May 11, 2009 at 3:00 am

This post fascinated me. I never thought of the great divide of food and religions before.


Sophie May 12, 2009 at 3:00 am

MMMMMM….Maris, love it!! delicious!!


Sara May 12, 2009 at 3:00 am

I love quick and easy weeknight meals – most nights I come home from work tired and I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen!


Cate O'Malley May 12, 2009 at 3:00 am

Oh man, I’m not a huge pork chop fan, but the topping looks fabulous!


jshively May 12, 2009 at 3:00 am

Fruit and pork with caramelized anything is win win.
I always joke that I am on early release for time served with it comes to religion. I also have a rule never to discuss religion and politics because a majority of people fight with emotion not rationale and that sucks. Love a good healthy debate but so hard to come by anymore.


Tami May 13, 2009 at 3:00 am

Yummy!! I’m making these tonight!!


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