Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin w/Balsamic-Fennel Confit

You know. It's January. We're supposed to be trying to make some lower calorie meals. After the excess of the holidays. But, you know how it is - you get tired of chicken breasts, stir-frys, and salads. So you go to the source - the cookbooks or the files - and find something new. Something more interesting. Something different. It wasn't hard - I have a huge inventory of cookbooks and folders and folders of clipped recipes. I pulled out one of the diet-type files I have - low-fat entrees - and found about 50 recipes in the file. At least half of them were for pork, which appealed to me. A big shopping spree at Costco, and a couple of hours of putting away stuff and re-proportioning the meat I bought, and I was ready to think about dinner.

For Christmas, at my suggestion, my DH gave me a FoodSaver vacuum packaging system (from Costco). I'd been reluctant to get one, even though a few people had recommended it. I went online and read reviews and settled on the FoodSaver 2940, which got better write-ups than others. I finally unpacked it yesterday, watched the DVD with demonstrations of packaging up all kinds of items. So today I bought a big pork roast and 4 tenderloins. I cut up the roast into 3 pieces and pressed the magic button and wh-o-o-o-p it sucks out all the air. It was FUN. (Sometimes I'm easily amused, especially with any new kitchen toy.) I separated the tenderloins and sucked 3 of those into separate packages. The 4th tenderloin became our dinner. The 2940 doesn't look exactly like this, but close.

So, I digress talking about my new toy. Back to dinner. I really like fennel. I like it raw - just to eat like celery, and I like it cooked - when it renders itself into silkiness, almost. I'd clipped the original recipe from one of Williams-Sonoma's catalogs. The recipe resided next to the write-up about "infused" balsamic. A mere 6 ounce bottle for $19.00. I didn't buy it (aren't you proud of me?). But I thought the recipe was intriguing, so I substituted, as we cooks are wont to do. I couldn't find nary a fresh sage leaf in two stores yesterday (I know, they're out of season, but I still thought the grocery store would have them anyway). Wrong. So I used powdered sage. Surely not the same thing, but the closest I could get. And, I didn't have this infused vinegar. But I DID have some wonderful fruit-infused balsamic that I thought might work. Indeed it did.

First you brown the pork tenderloin, remove it, then saute the fennel and shallots. I sliced the fennel in about 1/4 inch slabs. Maybe not the right configuration for this dish - next time I'd do what the recipe said - in 1/4 inch strips. The slices of fennel would work well in a baked dish, but this fennel needed to be tossed in the frying pan. A tad difficult with this large pieces. Awkward is all I can say. But, my own fault. Once the fennel is nearly cooked through, you add the balsamic. Put the pork tenderloin on top of this vegetable mixture and bake in a very hot oven until the pork is just pink through (145 degrees F), remove the fennel, then the pork to a cutting board and cover with foil briefly while you whisk the remaining sauce over high heat. The pork was perfectly cooked (pink in the middle) and the fennel (W-S calls it a confit) was kind of like a vegetable relish in a way. Not exactly like a side vegetable, but it was that too. Whatever it was, it was delicious.

Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic-Fennel Confit
Recipe: Adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe
Servings: 4
24 ounces pork tenderloin -- (two loins)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 whole fennel bulbs -- sliced in 1/4 inch slices
2 whole shallots -- sliced
6 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar with Pomegranate -- or infused balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh sage -- chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Season pork with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil and butter. When hot, brown pork for 3-4 minutes on each side until the meat has begun to caramelize. Transfer meat to a platter.
3. To the same frying pan add the slices of fennel and shallots. Saute, stirring, until the fennel is tender and golden, 6-10 minutes. Add 2 T. of the balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring, until nearly evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in half the sage leaves.
4. Nestle the pork tenderloin on top of the fennel, sprinkle with the remaining sage. Use a meat probe in the center of the meat. Transfer pan to the oven. Bake until the thermometer reaches 145 degrees, about 15-20 minutes, or until done to your liking.
5. Remove from oven and transfer pork to a cutting board. Loosely cover with foil. Allow to sit while you complete the sauce (about 5 minutes).
6. Set pan over medium-high heat. Add broth and 4 T. of the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 4-6 minutes. Slice the pork to about 1/2 inch medallions. Arrange pork slices of fennel on a heated platter and drizzle the top with the pan sauce. NOTES : If you don't have the Balsamic with Pomegranate, use some other kind fruited balsamic. The original recipe called for "Infused Balsamic Vinegar," available at Williams-Sonoma. It's an intense, reduced syrup almost, in either a rosemary or garlic flavor. Be sure to cook the fennel until it's nearly cooked before adding the vinegar. You want to caramelize the edges of the fennel, which enhances its flavor. And whatever you do, don't overcook the pork - you want it to be just barely pink in the middle.
Per Serving: 337 Calories; 13g Fat (33.3% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 118mg Cholesterol; 219mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 5 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.
Printer-friendly recipe, click title at top.

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