I have had my eye on this recipe for Pork Tenderloin Braised with Elderflower and Fennel for a long time. Even though I made the decision to tear it out of Food & Wine, I kept pushing it aside for some reason. Maybe because it seemed too simple to be worthwhile or because I tend to forget how much I enjoy fennel. Whatever the reason, after a year of not making this recipe, I finally got around to fixing it last week.
Along with being fairly healthy, this recipe has the benefit of a fairly short list of ingredients. And the only thing that required much money was the elderflower liquor (I bought a bottle of St. Germain). The upside to that is you only need a small amount of the cordial so you can keep it on hand to enjoy in drinks like the Honey Badger.
I should also mention that I cut in the recipe in half since I was cooking for two. I only needed to buy a pork tenderloin, a half of a teaspoon of fennel seeds and a bulb of whole fennel. Everything else I had on hand — fresh thyme, an onion and some white wine, so the meal was fairly inexpensive as well. The asparagus was my side dish, simply steamed and seasoned with salt.
Start by cutting the pork tenderloin into 2″ pieces and lightly pound them. Sprinkle the medallions with salt, pepper and finely chopped fennel seeds. Thinly slice the fennel bulb and onion. Then take a moment to drink some wine because that’s it for prep! No, really, that’s it. Put the cutting board away.
** I have to say before even tasting this meal it already won me over with the minimal effort — I was tired and hungry so low-maintenance cooking was right up my alley. **
Then take the pork pieces and sear them in hot oil in a large pan. You don’t want to cook them all the way through — just get some color on each side. (Mine could have gone a bit longer, but hey, they still tasted delicious.) Once they are nice and brown, pull them onto a small plate and set them aside.
Turn the heat down to medium and, in the same pan, add a bit more oil and throw in the sliced fennel and onion. Cover and cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5-7 minutes. Then add in the white wine, elderflower liqueur, a few thyme sprigs and a couple of bay leaves. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half and then add back the pork medallions and the juices on the plate. Cover and simmer on low heat until the pork is cooked through.
* Note: I know the recipe says the pork is braised and I actually worked with a girl who used to braise pork tenderloins instead of butts for things like pulled pork sandwiches, but I just cannot fathom cooking a tenderloin to well-done, even in a flavorful liquid. I was scared of sad dry pork, so I cooked mine until they were still a little pink inside, about seven minutes. *
Remove the herbs, sprinkle with some fennel fronds and serve!
This was seriously so good! I am appalled that I waited more than 15 months to make this dish. It was easy, light and fantastically delicious. The floral essence of the liqueur really gives the sauce and the pork a nice, albeit delicate, flavor. The fennel and onions combination with the thyme was perfect and the whole meal (with asparagus, of course) is just what I needed — healthy and filling. And now that the sun is shining brightly in Portland, it seems like this “perfect for spring” dish will become a regular in my house.