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Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Pepper and Fennel Sauce

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Pepper and Fennel Sauce

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Pepper and Fennel Sauce

One of the best ways to cook a whole pork tenderloin I must say), is to brown it well on the top of the stove and then finish in a low oven. You just want to get the temperature up to 135-140 degrees. This will give you a touch of pink and a lot of juiciness. Many books tell you to cook pork tenderloin to 150, even recently published ones. Don’t do it, it’ll be dry and grey. This small, tender cut, much like a chicken breast, keeps cooking once you take it from the oven (more so than larger, fattier cuts), so if anything, you want to take it out a little sooner (the last one I made, I pulled at about 138 degrees, and after letting it rest for about 8 minutes, it sliced into gentle, pinky beige perfection.

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Pepper and Fennel Sauce

(Serves 3)

1 pork tenderloin
A palmful of fennel seeds, ground
A palmful of black pepper corns, ground
¼ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 thyme sprigs, leaves chopped
A tiny splash of Pastis (such as Pernod, or you could use Sambucca)
Extra virgin olive oil

For the Roasted Pepper and Fennel Sauce:

2 red bell peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
About 6 ground fennel seeds
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
3 skinned plum tomatoes, chopped (canned are perfect for this)
A pinch of sugar
A tiny splash of Pastis
½ cup chicken broth (low-salt canned is fine)
A squeeze of lemon juice
A few large tarragon sprigs, leaves chopped
A few basil leaves, chopped, plus of few whole sprigs for garnish

If the tenderloin has a layer of silver skin (a thin filament on the surface), try and remove as much as you can since this will tighten up while cooking, making the meat a little tough.

In a small bowl mix the ground fennel seeds and black pepper, sugar, Dijon, and thyme. Add the splash of pastis and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and mix everything together. Smear this all over the pork tenderloin and refrigerate for at least an hour (or over night if you need to).

To make the sauce:

Roast the peppers on a grill or under the broiler, turning them often, until they’re blacked and charred all over. Peel and seed them and cut them into thick strips.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium flame. Add the fennel seed, shallot, and garlic, and sauté about a minute, just to release their fragrances. Add the roasted pepper and chopped tomatoes, season with a pinch of sugar and salt, and sauté about 3 minutes longer. Add the pastis and let it boil away. Add the chicken broth and let the sauce simmer for about another 3 or 4 minutes. Pour everything into the bowl of a food processor and puree. Pour the sauce into a small bowl and add a squeeze of lemon juice (just a little, to bring up all the flavors), the tarragon and the chopped basil. Taste for seasoning, adding a little more salt if needed. Let this come to room temperature while you cook the pork.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Get a large skillet hot over medium-high heat. Add the tenderloin, seasoning it with a little more salt, and brown in well on all sides. Place the skillet in the oven and roast for about 10 minutes. You want a temperature of between 138-140, which will give you a slightly pink center (if you have a meat thermometer, it’s not a bad idea to test it). Take the meat from the oven and out of the skillet and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Slice the tenderloin thinly and lay it out on a serving platter. Drizzle with a little fresh olive oil and garnish with the basil sprigs. Serve with the pepper sauce.

Erica De Mane is the author of three books on Southern Italian cooking. Her food blog is ‘Skinny Guinea’.

Complementary Wines: Aglianico, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, Nero D'Avola

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