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Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Fall Dinner That’s Quick, Easy, and Impressive

Okay, so your schedule is overbooked; you’re hard pressed to find an extra minute of spare time, but you really would like to have a few people over for dinner. Well, here’s a main course along with a few suggestions for sides that will let you pull off an evening without stress!

Try the following recipe for Fennel-Scented Pork Tenderloins with Roasted Vegetables. With just a little bit of effort you’ll end up with fork-tender roasts napped with a luscious pan sauce and a colorful accompaniment of carrots and fennel. The secret to this dish lies in ...
the garlic-and fennel-flavored oil that is brushed over the pork before it goes into the oven; and which is also used to intensify the sauce. Count on about 10 minutes tops to assemble this magical oil and another 15 to prep the vegetables. Then all you do is sauté the meat and vegetables and roast them together for about 20 minutes.

To go with this scrumptious main course, add some creamy polenta, mashed potatoes, or buttered noodles. Round out the offerings with a mixed greens salad tossed in a mustard vinaigrette and a basket of crusty artisan bread. For dessert opt for a tray of cheeses served with pears and apples or stop by your favorite bakery and pick up a sweet treat. Voilà!  Here’s an impressive autumn menu to savor with friends.

Fennel-Scented Pork Tenderloins with Roasted Vegetables

2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed (See note)
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided plus extra if needed
2 pork tenderloins, each about 1 pound with small end of each tucked under and tied
1 pound medium carrots, cut on the diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices
2 fennel bulbs (12 ounces each), halved lengthwise and tough center cores cut out, then             each half cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup reduced sodium chicken stock
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter for the sauce

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Have ready a large flameproof roasting pan.

Combine garlic, fennel seeds, rosemary, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl and whisk in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Set aside.

Heat remaining 4 tablespoon of oil in a flameproof roasting pan set over medium high heat. Add the vegetables and cook until lightly browned, adding more oil if needed, 5 minutes or more. Salt and pepper the vegetables and remove them to a platter. 
Add more oil if needed to the pan, and then add the pork. Brown tenderloins well on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Brush the tenderloins all over with half of the garlic/fennel oil, reserving the rest for the pan sauce. Surround the roasts with the vegetables.

Roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the tenderloins registers 150 degrees F, 15 to 20 minutes, and vegetables are lightly browned around the edges and tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove pork to a platter and cover loosely with foil to rest for 10 minutes. If vegetables are not quite tender, leave them in the pan and roast for 5 to 10 minutes or more and then remove and cover with foil.

To make the sauce, add remaining garlic/fennel oil to the pan along with wine, stock, and any pork juices that have collected on the platter. Place the pan over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil while whisking constantly to scrape up any bits and pieces on the bottom of the pan. Reduce slightly and then whisk in the butter to give the sauce a silky texture. Slice the tenderloins into 1/2 inch thick slices, arrange on a platter, and nap with some pan sauce.  Surround the meat with vegetables. Serves 5 to 6.

Note: To crush fennel seeds place in a self-sealing plastic bag and pound with a pounder or rolling pin, or crush with a mortar and pestle, or in an electric spice grounder. Crushing the seeds brings out their flavor.

Betty's newest book, Sunday Roasts (Chronicle Books) is now in stores. Find it on Amazon or look for Betty at an upcoming event!

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