Hunting for a special Valentines entree? I admit to a certain amount of symbolism in the production of the recipe below, but I've put it on Valentines menus many times, with great success. I made it tonight and took a lot of pictures. It's a bit technique-driven, and I've never seen anyone else use my technique, so have some fun with the recipe. Serve it with some soft polenta, or some cannellini beans cooked with garlic and parsley and olive oil, and enjoy. It makes at least 4 portions (depending on the size of your pork tenderloin) so sharing is an option. Because it's rich, 1/4 pound of pork per person is ample.
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 pork tenderloin, about a pound
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1 Tbs. fresh parsley leaves
- ½ tsp. fresh rosemary
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ¼ lb. thin sliced pancetta
- 1 shallot
- 1/3 lb. mushrooms
- 1 Tbs. butter
- 1Tbs. grape seed oil
- 1 Tbs. brandy or Cognac
- 1/4 cup dry Marsala , plus a bit more for finishing the dish
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 Tbs. butter at room temperature
Clean the tough layer of silver skin from the side of the tenderloin, using a sharp boning knife. Cut across at the middle. Cut lengthwise halfway through the “head” part of the tenderloin (the end that doesn’t taper), so you can open it flat like a book.
“Roast” the garlic clove for 15 seconds in the microwave. It will get amazingly soft, and will also mellow in flavor. Squeeze from its papery shell and add it, along with the parsley leaves and rosemary (stripped from the stem), and the salt and pepper, to a mortar and work with the pestle to mash it into a thick puree. Alternatively, chop all of these ingredients until they are very fine. Smear the paste all over the inside of the opened tenderloin half. Place the other half, small-end to large-end, so that the cut part wraps around the uncut part, forming one larger, reasonably even cylinder. Fold in hanging skinny end, if one piece is longer than the other. Wrap slices of pancetta securely around the entire cylinder, uniformly and firmly covering the entire piece, thus holding it together. Cut into 4 even medallions. Refrigerate until needed.
Remove meat from refrigerator about one hour before serving time, to warm it. At that time, season the cut ends with salt and pepper. Peel and finely chop the shallot. Clean the mushrooms, using a soft brush to remove dirt if necessary. Trim if needed, and slice. Melt the butter in a medium-sized, heavy sauté pan, and cook the mushrooms and, seasoning with salt & freshly ground pepper, until just soft, over medium heat. Set aside. Wipe out, but don’t wash the pan.
Reheat the pan , add the oil. Place the tuournedos in the pan cut side down, and cook, over high heat, until the first side is seared. Turn and sear the second side, then turn the heat down, and cook two minutes. If you want, rotate like a wheel to brown the pancetta — not necessary, but nicer looking. There’s a delicate balance with pork tenderloin, because if you overcook it will be tough and dry. You want the meat a bit rosy, but definitely cooked — if you’re using a meat thermometer, 130°F; or if you press on the meat, it will be firm, definitely not at all squishy. Total cooking time will be under 10 minutes.
Remove the meat to a warm plate, and carefully add the brandy to the pan. It will flame up! Let the flamed die down, and add the Marsala. Cook until reduced by half. Add the broth, and bring to the boil. Return the pork to the pan, along with the mushrooms and their juices, and spoon the bubbling sauce over the pork for a minute, to re-warm the pieces. Taste the sauce, and season if needed. Turn off the flame, add the butter, swirling and stirring it into the sauce. Finish with a splash more Marsala.