The idea that you can take butter, cook it in a skillet, and it becomes brown butter is amazing to me. Seems obvious, but it deserves more than its literal name, because it's a transformation—from something many of us eat every day into a golden, nutty base for sauce. A pan sauce made from butter and lemon, like in the very classic a la meuniere for fish, is a marvel of simplicity. In this recipe, it's transformed using salsa verde—an Italian sauce of fresh herbs, capers, garlic, and anchovy.
This wonderful concoction comes to us via Susanne Goin and her cookbook Sunday Suppers at Lucques. The recipe originally called for veal, but I opted to pound slices of cheaper and easier-to-find pork tenderloin, but the effect is about the same: medallions of tender meat on a bed of creamy polenta topped with a piquant, buttery, lemony sauce. In other words, a delicious, delicious dinner.
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- salt and pepper to taste
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 anchovy fillet, roughly chopped
- 1/2 clove garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 4 3/4-inch slices pork tenderloin
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- juice of half a lemon
Bring 3 cups water to boil in a saucepan. When simmering, whisk in the cornmeal vigorously until it begins to thicken. Season with salt, cover, and cook over low heat until creamy and tender. Stir in water if needed to keep it a loose consistency. Just before serving, stir in 2 tablespoons of butter and most of the Parmesan, reserving some for garnish.
In the meantime, combine the garlic, olive oil, and anchovy in a small food processor. Pulse to chop it well, then add the herbs and pulse until the herbs are finely chopped and you have an herb-y, pesto-like paste.
Lay the pork slices on a cutting board between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them gently until 1/8-inch thick. Season with salt, then dredge them in the flour. Shake off the excess and place them on a baking sheet.
Heat the canola oil in a medium skillet over high heat until the oil is very hot and shimmering. Add the pork cutlets and cook for 1-2 minutes per side, until golden. Remove with tongs and keep in a warm place. Add the remaining butter, stirring and scraping up the browned bits in the pan, then continue cooking over medium heat until the butter begins to turn brown and smell nutty (be careful that it doesn't turn black and bitter). Add the lemon juice to halt the butter cooking, then stir in the herb paste. Cook for an additional 30 seconds to allow the flavors to meld and season to taste.
Serve the pork on the polenta and spoon the sauce over it. Top with freshly cracked black pepper and the remaining Parmesan.