Happy New Year! I hope you all had a safe and happy little break there. I know I appreciated back-to-back 4-day weekends, although the 3-day workweeks still managed to feel long and arduous. How does that happen? Who knows what the first full workweek will feel like. I’d rather not think about it.
Just before the new year I was really in the mood to cook (you’re reading this on a food blog and thus I know this sounds redundant but bear with me). The holiday season was filled with great food, but mu cooking comprised of dishes for potlucks, one great breakfast, and a host of randomly heated up leftovers/otherwise piecemeal dinners. I had not made a solid dinner that I really put some good work into and was able to sit back and enjoy in far too long.
So I went digging in my new Cooks Illustrated issues (thank you mom!), my new copy of Jerusalem, and a cookbook I’m so glad my friend Katie introduced me to, The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook. In the wintry spirit, a tasty pork tenderloin recipe caught my eye, so I pulled out my cast iron skillet and got to work.
This dish is an amazingly warm and comforting dinner. The flavors all came together and it really did taste like winter (my added sage took it over the top in that direction). Served on a bed of cheesy, creamy polenta, this truly hit the spot!
Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry-Sage SauceAdapted from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook
What you need:
- 1 pork tenderloin (1 to 1.5 lbs)
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 4 tsp sea salt
- 2.5 c blackberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 c chicken stock
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 c honey
- ~7 leaves fresh sage (more/less as desired)
- Salt & Pepper
Prep the sauce:Note: this can be done earlier in the day or even a day in advance. You will need to reheat it just before serving.
- Melt your butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the onions, seasoning with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until translucent.
- Stir in your chicken stock and mustard, and cook, stirring, for several minutes until the mustard has dissolved throughout. Add in your blackberries, sage, and honey, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken (10-15 minutes).
- Blend in a food processor, blender, or after transferring to a bowl and using an immersion blender. You’ll be left with thick, somewhat chunky sauce. Make sure to season with salt and pepper to taste.
Prep the tenderloin:
- Toast your fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat for ~7 minutes until fragrant. Make sure you shake them around several times throughout to ensure they don’t burn.
- Grind your seeds up either with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder if you have one.
- Stir in your salt and voila! You have fennel salt.
- Rinse and pat dry your pork tenderloin. (If you want to trim a little fat off, feel free, but be aware that it is a lean cut of meat so you should leave most of it on there. It really isn’t much!)
- Rub about 2 tbsp of your fennel salt all over your pork tenderloin and let it sit under some foil for a while (I left it in there for a few hours to come to room temperature and allow the salt and fennel to marinate the meat while we saw Life of Pi. I pat it dry a bit when we got back and before I seared it)
- Note: You can also rub the fennel salt on just prior to searing. Just make sure your tenderloin has come to room temperature to ensure even cooking.
Cook the tenderloin:
- Preheat oven to 375°F
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in your skillet over medium-high heat. Get this good and hot! I had issues searing my pork at first because impatient Emily didn’t wait long enough to add the pork to the skillet. Anyway.
- Sear the pork on all sides, allowing it to brown on each side before turning it. This should take about 10 minutes in total.
- Transfer your pork to the oven and roast (uncovered) for 20 minutes, turning halfway through. When you remove it from the oven, cover it with foil and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing on a bias for serving.
I served this on a bed of cheesy/creamy polenta (thank you mascarpone, butter, and parmesan!) with some fresh sage leaves and roasted broccoli on the side. It was a slam-dunk. I loved it. The boyfriend loved it. The season of winter loved it.