State of the Onion

In celebration of the State of the Union address last night, I tried to cook my way toward a country whose environmental values I might admire. I’m not *really* familiar with Angela Merkel‘s environmental platform, but in my politically oblivious brain, I daydream that Germany’s leaders give greenhouse gas emissions and global warming more than a second or two when the entire nation is watching. (He SAID it! He did MENTION global warming! And we’re going to cut gas use by 20%! But poor Louisiana.) I sure can hear all my political pundit friends wince when I confess that for me, politics is an issue of mind over matter. Maybe if I imagine I’m in Germany I’ll be less depressed by how far we are from January 2009.

Anyway. Here’s a German-inspired meal, meaning pork and cabbage and potatoes, cravings for which were brought on by a trip to Prost Tavern last Friday night, when the kitchen had already closed and I never got my bratwurst. These recipes are not certifiably German in any way, they just happen to capitalize on some ingredients also used frequently in German cooking.

Main course: preztel-crusted pork tenderloin, which I cooked using a method encouraged by Mark Bittman in a recent New York Times article (you can watch the video here). First you sear the outside of a pork tenderloin, then you let it rest, then you slice it and sear the cut ends again, so you have perfectly tender pork medallions with beautifully browned crusts on all sides. I made a warm potato salad by boiling little red potatoes and dressing them in a snappy mustard vinaigrette, made with Maille, champagne vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley, and also made cooked cabbage, cooked as for collard greens, with a few slices of bacon and a few good squirts of apple cider vinegar.

The meal steered my focus away from the radio, which means that really, beyond the repetitive regurgitation I heard on NPR this morning, I still have no idea what state our union is in. Good thing I’m not the only one.

What do you suppose would go into a recipe for Lame Duck?

Pretzel-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Dijon-Ale Sauce

PS: It has come to my attention that some of y’all might like to see the recipes right here in the body of the post, in addition to having the option to downlaod the PDF, so here goes. Let me know what you think.

Recipe for Pretzel-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Dijon-Ale Sauce

Mark Bittman gets all the credit for this searing technique – I’m sure it’s been done before, but he convinced me to try it. I double-dipped my pork tenderloin in an egg-and-pretzel batter for a crispy, almost Parmesano-style crust.

I used Snyder’s sourdough pretzel nibbles, in Honey Mustard and Onion flavor, for my pretzel crust, but my friend Michaela suggests that you’ll get more pretzel flavor if you use a pretzel with a bigger brown-outside-to-white-inside ratio, like pretzel sticks. I’ll try that next time.

The sauce is delish, but you can also serve the pork without it – and let me know if you try this recipe with chicken!

TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

1 1/2 cups pretzels, such as Snyder’s “nibblers”
1 large egg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 big (1 1/4 pound) pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup brown ale
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Pulse the pretzels in a food processor until they have the texture of coarse breadcrumbs. Transfer them to a large plate, and set aside. Crack the egg onto another large plate, whisk to blend, and season both the egg and the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper.

Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels, then roll it first in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs, then in the egg again, then in the breadcrumbs again, using your hands to help any wayward crumbs adhere better (you will not use all the crumbs, but you will need them again later).

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon each of the butter and oil, and swirl the pan to coat. When the butter has melted, add the tenderloin, and sear it on all four sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side (undisturbed), or until the crust is golden brown all over. (I found it’s easiest to turn the tenderloin using two sets of tongs, to avoid twisting the crispy crust and breaking it.) Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the tenderloin to a cutting board, and let rest 5 minutes. (The tenderloin will not be cooked through at this point, so treat it as you would raw meat.)

Slice the tenderloin into 8 equal medallions, and turn them one cut side-up on your cutting board. Season the cut sides with half of the leftover breadcrumbs. Reheat the pan over medium heat, and when hot, add the remaining butter and oil. When the butter has melted, add the medallions, with the new breadcrumbs down, and season the naked sides with any remaining breadcrumbs.

Cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side, or until the medallions are golden brown all over and cooked to your liking in the center. (I take mine off the heat at about 145 degrees, measured with an instant-read thermometer.) Transfer to a serving plate and tent with foil.

Add the ale, mustard, thyme (if using), and cream to the pan, whisk to combine, and increase the heat to high. Simmer the sauce for about five minutes, or until it begins to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately, over (or under) the pork medallions.

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