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5.14.2012

Tender Is the Loin...

There used to be a time when I could barely bring myself to touch raw meat. For the first several years of my cooking career, I only made dishes either with ground beef or turkey that I could flop into the pan straight out of the package, or I purchased meat that was cut exactly to the size I needed. This may not be very PC of me to say, given the growing sentiment against factory farmed meat, and the popularity of Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, but I struggle with being reminded of the fact that my meat once came from a living, breathing animal. I prefer to delude myself that it just materialized, neatly shrink-wrapped in my grocery store's butcher counter. If I put too much thought into where my meat comes from, I'd probably start considering vegetarianism. 

Over time, I've gotten less squeamish. I'll buy bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs because they are cheaper, and do some of the butchering myself. I've even started expanding the repertoire of meat that I'm willing to purchase, into pork roasts and pork tenderloins, both of which need to be trimmed and cleaned at home. I'm not going to say that trimming the firmly-attached silver skin off of a pork tenderloin is a pleasant kitchen task, because the meat is still slimy to the touch, and that stuff is practically impossible to remove, but I'm willing to go through the effort in order to add variety to our diet. 

This week, I managed to find a relatively decent price on pork tenderloin, which can be incredibly pricey, so I brought one home. To prepare it, I opted for a recipe that included roasted pears and shallots, since fruit is such a natural compliment to pork. Furthermore, I was intrigued by the unique pan sauce that accompanied the meat, which was formed from a mixture of pear nectar and chicken stock. I hadn't seen a sauce quite like it before, so it seemed like a technique worth exploring.

I'm not sure how I didn't realize this, however, but the ingredients for this dish were quite similar to the pork roast with apples I made for the first time two months ago, and have already made again since then. the herbs were similar, as was the presence of fruit, and shallots. Even though this dish was delicious, and the sauce was a nice extra component lacking from the pork roast recipe, I'd just as soon stick to the roast in the future. Not only is the cut of meat cheaper, the cooking method produces a juicier piece of meat. I'd just as soon get the same flavor profile for less money. 

That said, this dish was very good, and would be an impressive meal to serve to guests. If you don't have a Dutch oven for the pork roast recipe, I think this would be an excellent alternative.


Pork Tenderloin with Pears and Shallots 
adapted from Bon App├ętit
 
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloin
3 large shallots, each cut into 6 wedges through stem end, peeled
3 unpeeled small Bosc or Anjou pears, quartered, cored
4 teaspoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
3/4 c. pear nectar

Preheat oven to 475°F. 

1. Mix oil, garlic, and chopped thyme in small bowl. Rub mixture over pork, shallots, and pears. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and shallots; brown on all sides, turning, about 7 minutes. Transfer shallots to platter. Transfer pork to baking sheet (do not clean skillet). Roast pork until thermometer inserted into center registers 145°F, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, add pears to same skillet and cook over medium-high heat until brown on cut side, turning once or twice, about 4 minutes. Transfer pears to platter (do not clean skillet).

3. Mix butter and flour in small cup. Add broth, pear nectar, and butter mixture to same skillet; boil until sauce thickens, scraping up browned bits, about 7 minutes.
4. Slice pork; arrange on platter. Surround with pears and shallots. Drizzle sauce over pork.

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