Monday, March 12, 2018

Springing Forward

What’s cooking? Pork Medallions with Fennel-White Wine Sauce

Well, it’s almost spring. Just not yet, even though here in Texas, we’ve got blooms aplenty on the flowering trees, and my pansies are exploding with happiness at having survived the winter. But I’m getting really tired of the hearty soups and roast chicken dinners. And the asparagus isn’t quite “local” yet, if you know what I mean.

So I was delightfully surprised to find a recipe for pork tenderloin that didn’t require roasting or bundling my prince up so that he could grill it in the cold.

I don’t remember ever having pork tenderloin from my mother’s kitchen. We often had pork chops, and occasionally pork roast, so maybe this is one of those cuts – like a tri-tip roast – that wasn’t really popular or well known back then. In any case, as a grown-up, I’ve become a big fan. It’s as tender as a beef filet but much less expensive; it’s also juicy, flavorful, and very lean. Would you like to know why it’s so tender? I thought so. The cut comes from an area along the spine, so it’s a muscle that’s used for posture instead of movement.

Even better, this particular treatment is so fast and easy, it blew me away. The cooking part of the recipe takes... drum roll, please... less than 10 minutes. Can you believe it? The Kitchen Goddess was more than a little skeptical until she made it herself.

If you’re not familiar with fennel, you may be tempted to try this recipe with celery or onion. Don’t do it. Just allow me a short digression on the vegetable, then go out and introduce yourself to it.

According to wikipedia, fennel is a highly aromatic member of the carrot family. (News to me.) It’s also a rich source of protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins and several dietary minerals. The plant came originally from the Mediterranean coast, which is why you’ll find fennel popping up in Italian cuisine. The tall, feathery fronds are often in salads or omelettes; the seeds look and taste a lot like anise; and the flowers produce a potently flavorful pollen that the Kitchen Goddess has raved about more than once. Fennel bulbs – which look like a marriage between a head of celery and a spring onion –  have a faint licorice-like taste when raw; cooked, they’re completely different. Aside from their use raw in salads, fennel bulbs make a wonderful addition to soups and risottos, and they’re terrific grilled or braised on their own. Here, the bulb adds a light, spring-like flavor to the sauce.

So now that you’re ready for the magic to happen, the most important part of the process is our old friend, mise en place. Remember: less than 10 minutes to cook? So there’s not a spare instant to pour the wine, measure the broth, or chop the herbs. Get it all ready before you turn on the stove; otherwise, you will find yourself deep in the weeds, as they say in the restaurant industry.

The recipe here is written for a one-pound piece of meat, which in my experience is about average for pork tenderloin. So it feeds two people, with some left over for a lucky soul the next day. At most, it’ll work fine for three. If I were cooking for four, I’d double the meat and use a whole fennel bulb that’s more of a medium size than large. The use of the herbs in the preparation is so fabulous, I’d at least double it if you’re cooking for four. You’ll also have to cook the meat in two shifts.

This recipe comes from A Good Food Day, by Marco Canora, chef-owner of Hearth, in New York City. In spite of (or perhaps because of) his success as a chef, Canora discovered, at age 40, that he was pre-diabetic, with high cholesterol and gout, and 30 pounds overweight. But he wasn’t willing to give up flavor for health, so he developed a way of cooking based on “simple, natural recipes fit for a food-lover’s palate.” Twenty-five pounds lighter, he published 125 of the recipes in this book.

Pork Medallions with Fennel-White Wine Sauce

Adapted from A Good Food Day, by Marco Canora (Clarkson-Potter Publishers, 2014).

Serves 2-3.

1 large garlic clove, peeled
1 rounded tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 rounded tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1-pound pork tenderloin, sliced in ½-inch thick medallions
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ large fennel bulb, diced small (¼-⅜ inch dice)
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup flavorful chicken broth (or ¼ cup water and ½ teaspoon Knorr Chicken Broth Powder)

Mash the garlic clove with the flat side of a chef’s knife and chop it coarsely. On a cutting board, combine the chopped garlic with the rosemary and sage, and finely chop them all together. Set the mix aside in a small bowl.

Use paper towels to blot the pork dry, and season the medallions on both sides with salt and pepper. Have a warm plate ready to receive the pork once it’s cooked.

Kitchen Goddess note: The hot oil and the moisture in the meat will make for a fair amount of grease splattered around your skillet. If you have one of those clever things called a splatter guard or splatter screen, the KG recommends you dig it out of its place behind those cake pans, or whatever obscure place you keep it. You’ll save yourself a lot of clean-up.

Set a 12-inch skillet with high sides over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil to the skillet, and bring the oil to a shimmer. Once the oil is hot, add the medallions in a single layer and cook – without touching – for 1½ minutes. Using tongs, turn the medallions and cook the other side – again without touching – for another 1½ minutes. Transfer the meat to the warm plate to rest.

See those nice bits of brown crustiness? That's what comes from NOT TOUCHING the meat while it cooks.

While the meat rests, add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet – still on medium-high heat – along with the fennel and a pinch of salt. Cook for 1 minute, using a wooden spatula or wooden spoon with a flat edge to stir the fennel and scrape up the fond (those bits of brown meat that stuck to the bottom of the skillet).

Stir the garlic and herb mixture into the fennel for 30 seconds, then add the wine, the broth, and any juices from the meat that have accumulated on the plate.

Bring the sauce to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, until it reduces by about half and thickens. Spoon the sauce over the pork medallions and serve.

The sauce is so delicious – light and herby – that I like to have something to soak up any that I can’t get with the meat, so I usually serve the meat with French bread or rice and a salad or green vegetable. If you choose rice, you’ll want to prepare it completely before you start cooking the meat, and let the rice stay warm, covered, in its saucepan while you cook the meat and sauce.

Bon appétit!

No comments:

Post a Comment