Three years ago my Mom’s family came to DC. Thursday night I was on the hook for dinner, a relaxing evening with 20-25 guests. A week out, Mom called and asked me what I was planning to serve. “It’s been a busy week and I haven’t even thought about it,” I said.
I gave her the same answer Sunday night when she called, a note of panic politely at bay, and again on Monday when she and my father drove into town. Tuesday morning, returning home from my morning swim, I said, “It’s probably time to plan Thursday’s dinner.”
Stress free, I planned an easy meal of homemade soup, a tossed green salad and fennel crusted, roast pork with a Madeira pan sauce.
The pork is my go to. It was on the menu for 40-45 when my friend Ali christened her daughter. I served it to100 at a fundraiser for the LGBT Fallen Heroes Fund this past spring. When our friends Frank and Steve asked if we could cater their wedding for 120-150, the largest crowd I have ever cooked for, I confidently said “yes,” mentally adding this recipe to the buffet.
After almost no prep, the pork cooks with a quick sear on the stove and 20 minutes more in a hot oven, all in the same pan. Once out, 5 minutes of deglazing and reducing a bit of stock, finished with cold butter creates a decadent sauce. It’s good hot or cold and reheats beautifully.
Last night, after successfully catering Frank and Steve’s beautiful wedding, Jason and I collapsed on the couch, turned on the TV and enjoyed the cold butts we had cut from each tenderloin, dragged through the last drips of sauce in the bottom of a tupperware container.
Fennel Crusted Pork Loin
- 2 tbs fennel seeds
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 2 pork tenderloins
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1/4 cup brandy or Madeira wine
- 1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tbs cold butter
Place fennel seeds, sea salt and cardamom in a spice grinder or coffee mill. Blend into a fine powder.
- Pat tenderloins dry and coat with ground spices.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees
- Warm oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to hot skillet and sear on all sides. About 8-10 minutes total.
- Place skillet, with seared pork, in oven and cook to 145 degrees, about 15 minutes. Remove pork from oven and reserve on a plate, tented in foil.
- Make the pan sauce: Place the skillet over medium heat. If the skillet is dry, add one tbs olive oil and the shallot. Cook until shallot is softened.
Add peppercorns, bay and thyme to skillet along with brandy. Reduce brandy to about 1 tbs and add stock.
- Reduce stock by half and add any juices that have accumulated under the pork. Reduce sauce to 3/4 cup, remove from heat and whisk in butter.
- Serve sliced pork with sauce.