Jul 29 2010

The Other White Meat

Published by at 3:44 pm under Dinner

Ever since we made that delicious pork tenderloin in our Napa Valley cooking class, I’ve been dying to try some more pork dishes of my own. The catch, of course, is that I couldn’t just rip off the same recipes we cooked in the lesson, so this time I went in a completely different direction.

What I did learn in my first pork experience was the value of the pre-cooking prep work: Be very liberal with seasonings! The way Chef Gary explained it, even if you drown the meat in salt, it’s still only covering a relatively small percentage of what you’re eating. So my assistant mixed up a rub with olive oil, fresh garlic, salt and pepper and covered the pork completely before we put it on the heat.

I subscribe to the daily recipe emails over at CHOW.com, and their Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce caught my eye the other morning. Though I’d never tried it myself, I’ve heard repeatedly that almost any fruit complements the flavors in pork, so this was just the inspiration I needed to dream up my own recipe.

I used peaches in this dish, but cherries, raspberries or even plums would likely work just as well. Just keep in mind that the ripeness of the fruit will have a big impact on the taste of the finished sauce. The peaches I used were ready to eat but not juicy and sweet, so they created a slightly more tart sauce; I loved the flavor, but my assistant was hoping for something sweeter.

You’ll also notice an ingredient that I don’t often cook with made the list this time — beer. I was running low on balsamic vinegar and wanted to add more volume to the peach reduction sauce, so I poured a bit of dark, hoppy ale into the skillet.

Beer is almost more fun to cook with than wine — maybe it’s just the novelty? — and it added a deep, almost mocha-like flavor to the end result. Definitely something I’d recommend! And the good news is you only need about half a beer, so the rest is yours to drink.

On that note, I’ve been intimidated in the past by the fancy-sounding word “reduction,” but making one is as easy as boiling water. Literally. You pour it into the skillet and let it simmer until the water evaporates and you’re left with a sweet syrup — simple and impressive.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Peach Reduction

Ingredients (Serves 4):

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp. each salt and pepper, plus more

1.5 lbs. pork tenderloin

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup dark, hoppy ale (I used Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, but any IPA will work)

2 peaches, chopped

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 tbsp. brown sugar

Combine garlic and olive oil in a small bowl, then coat the pork with the mixture using your hands. Cover generously with salt and pepper. Grill on medium-high heat for about 7 minutes on each side (or to desired doneness).

In a large sauce pan, combine vinegar, ale, peaches, onion and brown sugar. Let simmer for about 15 minutes; sauce should be a syrup-y texture. If it’s too watery, keep simmering. Season with salt and pepper and serve over pork.

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