Note: You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays with ideas on preparing fruits and vegetables.
I recently discovered this killer method of preparing pork tenderloin. Ironically, it's killer largely because it's so healthy. This is the second installment of our simple, spalike menu for holiday-season downtime, designed to help you eat light, flavorful, and balanced meals when you're craving a healthful counterpoint to holiday excess.
The pork is braised in a lightly spiced bath of apple cider and chicken stock, which keeps this lean cut extremely moist and tender and imparts a subtle flavor of mulled cider. You'll have to trust me on this, since I committed the cardinal sin of food photography and let the pork hang out for, ahem, a couple of hours before taking the grayish photo above. The mildly sweet fennel, carrot, and apple slaw makes a flavorful antidote to buffet indulgence. Using a bit of the reduced cooking liquid in the slaw dressing brings together the two elements of the dish nicely. (Plus, who doesn't appreciate a little pork in their salad dressing? We're trying to be healthy here, but we're not robots, people.)
If you have one, a mandoline makes quick work of the slaw ingredients. Use the regular blade for the fennel and onion and the julienne blade for the carrots and apple. If you have more time than fancy equipment, a chef's knife works fine, too. Just cut as thinly as possible.
My young kids were big fans of this dish, so I'd have to say that killer pork was a win-win for everyone. Everyone except the porcine victim, that is. But even so, there are worse causes to die for, especially during the holidays, than the healthful pleasures of others.
Cider-Braised Pork Tenderloin with Fennel, Apple, and Carrot Slaw
Pork adapted from Cooking Light.
- 3 cups apple cider
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 1-pound pork tenderloins
- Salt and pepper
- 1 fennel bulb, stems and fronds discarded
- 2 large carrots, peeled if desired and trimmed
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored (no need to peel)
- 1/4 small red onion
- 1/4 cup of the reduced syrup (see step 2 below)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
In a wide pan, combine the apple cider, cloves, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer vigorously for 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock. Generously season the pork tenderloins with salt and pepper. Add the pork to the pan, cover, and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, flipping the pork every 5 minutes or so, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. Remove the pork to a plate to rest.
Raise the heat to high and boil the sauce, uncovered, until it is reduced to about 2/3 cup and develops a syrupy consistency (about 10 to 15 minutes). You will notice larger bubbles forming as the syrup thickens. Carefully pour the syrup into a bowl and remove the cloves and bay leaves.
While the sauce is reducing, prepare the slaw. Quarter and core the fennel bulb and slice it very thinly with a knife or mandoline. Cut the carrots and apple into very thin matchsticks (the julienne blade of a mandoline works well here). Very thinly slice the onion. Combine these ingredients in a large bowl.
To make the dressing, whisk together 1/4 cup of the reduced syrup, the vinegar, oil, and mustard and a few good grinds of black pepper until emulsified. Toss the slaw with half the dressing, and slice the pork tenderloin. To serve, divide the slaw among four plates, top with a few slices of tenderloin, and drizzle with additional dressing if desired.