Pork Tenderloin with Poached Plums= YUM!

As much as I try to fight it, fall really is here and the kids are back to school, and we have begun the crazy, hectic running around schedule that most American families share. Between our son’s soccer practice that ended at 5 and our daughter’s dance rehearsal that started at 6, we were able to sit down to this incredibly delicious dinner that was done in about 30 minutes. It was a fast and easy recipe that is so beautiful, it’s nice enough for company!

I found this recipe for a class that I taught at our local Cornell Cooperative Extension that focused on quick recipes using seasonal ingredients. People usually think of apples as the quintessential fall fruit and the perfect pairing with pork, but at this time of the year, plums are bountiful, really juicy and delicious and they make a perfect accompaniment to the pork. The poached plums alone are fabulous and I made extra so that I could have some leftover to eat for lunch today! YUM!

Pork tenderloin is a wonderful quick cooking dinner for a weeknight. The technique is simple which is to heat your pan until it’s really hot, use a drizzle of a neutral oil, such as canola, season your tenderloin well with salt and pepper and then sear it for just a minute or two on each side so it gets nicely browned and then finish it in a hot oven where the heat circulates around the meat instead of just the direct heat of the skillet. (Note here, make sure your skillet is oven-proof so that you don’t melt your handles or ruin your pan! Every kitchen should have at least one large pan that can go stove-top to oven. Another note: DON’T try to brown meat in a non-stick skillet, it won’t work effectively and you’ll end up with gray meat! ) Allow the pork to sit on a cutting board under a loose tent of foil for 5 minutes while you get everything else ready to allow the juices to redistribute before slicing it.

The only funky ingredient in the recipe is the star anise. It can be tricky to find in the local grocery store, but you may be able to find it in an Asian grocery or you can easily order it online like I did from Penzey’s Spices. It has a strong anise flavor which is not something that I like on it’s own, but when steeped in things like red wine, it adds are really complex and delicious note without tasting like a black licorice whip.

This got a thumbs up all the way around our dinner table last night and I hope you enjoy it too!

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Poached Plums
(adapted from Bon Appetit 2007)

6 sweet firm red or black plums, about 2 pounds, quartered, pitted
2 cups Pinot Gris or Viognier
1 cup dry red wine
2 whole star anise*
cinnamon stick
1/4 cup plus 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar, divided
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
5 fresh thyme sprigs plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme, divided
2 tablespoons chopped shallot

2 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloins
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Chopped fresh chives

For Plums:
Combine plums, white wine and red wine, the star anise and cinnamon stick, and 1/4 cup sugar in heavy large saucepan; bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat; simmer until plums are tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer plums to platter. Strain wine mixture.
Return strained liquid to same saucepan. Add broth, thyme sprigs, and shallot. Boil until mixture is reduced to 1 cup, about 25 minutes. Stir in 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar and chopped thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD:Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover plums and sauce separately; chill. Bring plums to room temperature; re-warm sauce over medium heat.

For Pork:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush pork with 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until brown on all sides, turning often, about 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven, and roast pork until thermometer inserted into center registers 140F, about 20 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and let pork stand 10 minutes tented with foil. Cut pork crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve with poached plums and sauce. Sprinkle with chopped chives.

*Available in the spice section of some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Asian markets.


Sunday Dinner Julia Child’s Style

As our kids get older and busier, I have been really focusing on establishing the tradition my mom had which was our Sunday dinner served in the early afternoon so we can spend at least a little time together in an unhurried, enjoyable meal.
This week I had a ham bone with a lot of meat left on it so it was time to make one of my favorite winter comfort food dinners. It is from a dogeared copy of Julia Child’s The Way to Cook, which I received as a wedding shower gift from my husband’s aunt. (Thanks Alice! I still have it, love it and use it after 17 years!)
It is a wonderful casserole of au gratin potatoes and chunks of ham baked together until it is bubbly and browned on top! It takes a few pots and pans (most of Julia’s recipes do..) and a little time, but it is so worth it! Add a salad and a piece of crusty bread and viola! Dinner is served!
Ham and potato gratin.  Delish!

Here is the recipe as it is written in the cookbook. I make a half batch and it is enough for 10-12 people to have generous servings.

Granny’s Ham and Potato Gratin for a Crowd
serves 18-24

10 lbs. white potatoes

Garlic and mustard sauce

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
1 c flour
6 1/2 c. hot milk
salt, pepper, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 c dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. dried thyme or sage

4 c. coarsely grated Swiss cheese, or a combination of Swiss, Cheddar, and mozzarella

6-8 c of cooked ham, diced, sliced or ground (I like largish chunks.)

For the potatoes, peel them and slice them thinly (a food processor makes fast work of them). Put them in a pot of cold water and heat it to boiling. Gently boil the potatoes for about 3-4 minutes until they are tender but not cooked entirely. Drain them and set aside.
While you are cooking the potatoes, make the garlic and mustard sauce.
Melt the butter over med-high heat in a large pot (that can hold 6 1/2 c of milk). Once it’s melted, sprinkle the flour on and whisk together. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, don’t let it get brown though. Add half of the hot milk and whisk until blended and then add the rest of the milk in a steady stream. Continue to whisk until combined and thickened. Add the seasoning, garlic and mustard and continue to simmer for 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

Now it’s time to assemble!

Set aside 3 c. of sauce and 1 c of cheese for the topping.
In a large buttered casserole pan spoon a light layer of the sauce, then arrange everything in 3-4 layers. Start with potatoes, then ham, then sauce and cheese, repeat and the final layer should be the 3 c. of sauce to cover the potatoes completely and sprinkle with cheese.

*You can assemble this ahead a day in advance and then just bake it off.

Bake at 375º for 45 minutes until hot and browned.