Saturday, September 26, 2009

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Creamy Onion and Fennel Sauce

Fall is here in the north east and trickling into other parts of the US in fits and starts. And with the first goosebumps scattering across our arms and legs from that first drop in temperature, we're all ditching our summer salads and heirloom tomatoes for heartier fare like roasts and stews.

I myself am no exception. When I saw this recipe in the October issue of Better Homes and Gardens, it immediately caught my eye as a sophisticated take on beef strogonaf. I changed it a little, hoping I could sneak fennel past my husband if I upped the onions in the recipe (it worked - ha ha ha!!) and served it over rice to soak up all that lovely, creamy sauce.

Speaking of cream sauce - this recipe is genius because the 'cream' is actually a harmless little quarter cup of sour cream. No heavy cream or mascarpone to send your skinny jeans to the back of the closet. (I love Ina Garten as much as the next foodie, but in my opinion heavy cream belongs in ice cream and baked goods that at least warn you from the outset you're headed for trouble.)

The smell that fills your kitchen as this cooks in the oven is heavenly. Sweet with a hint of licorice from the fennel rounded out with rosemary's signature breath of forest and pine needles. In short - fall has entered your home and demands that you put on your favorite sweatshirt and cozy up with a bowl of this lovely, comforting dinner.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Creamy Onion and Fennel Sauce
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens from reader Bridget M. Klusman - Kalamazoo, MI
Serves 4.

1 nice sized pork tenderloin (one that you can imagine getting 4 servings out of)
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced thin and a few fronds reserved for garnish
2 medium sweet (Vidalia or other) onions, sliced thin
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
small handful of fennel seeds (about 2 tablespoons) for coating pork
salt and pepper for seasoning
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra on hand
3 fat cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup low sodium chicken or beef broth
1/2 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay works well) or vermouth
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 400 (if your oven runs hot - 375.)

Season the pork loin on all sides with salt and pepper. Add the fennel seeds to a pie plate or small rimmed baking sheet, then press the pork tenderloin into the seeds, continuing to roll over and press to encourage as many seeds to stick as possible. Set aside.

Heat an oven proof, large rimmed skillet or low dutch oven over medium heat adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the bottom. Let heat through for 2 minutes, or until the oil sizzles when you toss a fennel seat into it, then add the pork loin to the skillet. Let it sear on the first side about 4 minutes or until golden brown, then carefully use your tongs to turn it to the other side and repeat. Continue doing so until all sides have a nice sear, then transfer to a holding plate or tray.

Temporarily take your skillet off the heat and use a spoon to carefully remove any fallen fennel seeds from the pan leaving in as much oil as possible (they'll burn if not - you don't want them.) Return the pan to the heat and add a little more oil if the bottom of the pan has any dry spots. Add the fennel, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes. Add the onions along with more salt (about a half a teaspoon of kosher - less if using table salt), and continue cooking for another 10 minutes until the onions have begun to get translucent and cook down. Add the garlic and rosemary, along with a teensy bit more salt, stirring in well and cook another 2 or so minutes.

Add the broth and wine, carefully stirring in well to incorporate, then add the sour cream and do the same. Once well mixed, bring to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the pork loin back to the mixture, using your tongs to get it well and nestled in the center of the sauce.

Transfer the skillet, uncovered, to the oven and bake for 22-25 minutes, just until the pork is cooked through. Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting, then cut into slices and serve over rice, spooning the onion mixture and sauce around it. Garnish with fennel fronds or rosemary sprigs.

TIP: If you are not using low sodium stock in this recipe, cut back on the salt you use for seasoning throughout.

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