A Spectacularly Easy-to-make Autumn Supper
It always fascinates me how, once the season changes from summer to autumn, we all find ourselves wanting cozy, satisfying dinners. I think it has to do with the fact that it's getting darker earlier and, even though the days are still occasionally hot, the nights are now growing cooler.
My favorite warming autumn suppers are those that almost cook themselves -- dishes that, although they may contain a number of ingredients and separate preparations, come together easily and efficiently, combining on the plate to make spectacular meals. The recipe I share here, Cider-Glazed Pork Tenderloins with Braised Cabbage and Bacon, is a perfect example of that concept.
As you'll notice while reading through the recipe (something you should always do in advance, start to finish, before you start cooking), each of its three main preparations dovetails neatly with the other. Once you combine the ingredients for the glaze and start reducing it, you can begin braising the cabbage; and as soon as the cabbage is assembled and simmering away, you can prepare the pork. As if by magic, they're all ready within moments of each other, and you serve up generous platefuls that look and taste like they have emerged from a restaurant kitchen with many cooks.
After you've prepared the recipe a few times, you can begin to make variations, using different kinds of meats, vegetables, and seasonings. You can also apply the efficient way in which the preparation of the different elements overlaps to help you coordinate other meals.
But back to this autumn dinner. Pork Tenderloin is a beautifully tender, lean, sweet-tasting meat that goes especially well with the glaze's tart, sweet, and tangy combination of apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and maple syrup. The side dish of cabbage, onions, apples, and bacon is another great combination of flavors -- pungent, sweet, tart, and smoky -- that complement the pork perfectly. (And, if you haven't been a fan of cabbage before, you'll be surprised by the mild, satisfying flavor it develops through the gentle braising process with those other ingredients.)
Although everything cooks pretty much on its own, the most crucial part of the recipe comes when you roast the pork. Keep a close eye on it, to make sure it stays juicy and doesn't overcook. I suggest taking the tenderloins out of the oven when they register on an instant-read thermometer a slightly cooler internal temperature than the 160 degrees F. commonly recommended for pork. Turning the tenderloins in the glaze on the stovetop for a few more minutes will bring them to perfect doneness.
Then, all that's left to do is slice the pork and drape the slices on top of the cabbage. A heartwarming autumn dinner is ready to serve!
Cider-Glazed Pork Tenderloins with Braised Cabbage & Bacon
1 cup organic chicken broth
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
Freshly ground black pepper
BRAISED CABBAGE AND BACON:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 medium-sized savoy cabbage, cored and trimmed, leaves cut crosswise into julienne slices
2 cups organic chicken broth
2 organic Granny Smith apples, halved, cored, and cut into thin julienne strips
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 pork tenderloins, each about 12 ounces
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Prepare the Cider Glaze: In a medium saucepan, combine the broth, vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, shallots, thyme sprigs, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces to a thick, syrupy consistency, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and ground pepper and set aside.
While the glaze is still reducing, start the Braised Cabbage: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute, stirring occasionally, just until it turns crispy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and saute until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Add the cabbage and stir until slightly wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining butter, chicken broth, apples, and sugar. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apples and cabbage are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the thyme leaves and keep warm.
While the cabbage is simmering, prepare the Pork Loin: Season the pork tenderloins all over with salt and pepper. Over high heat, heat an ovenproof saute pan large enough to hold the tenderloins together. Add the olive oil and, when it shimmers slightly and swirls easily in the pan, carefully add the tenderloins and sear them all over until evenly golden brown, turning them with tongs, about 10 minutes total. Carefully pour in the white wine and tuck the bay leaf between the tenderloins. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and roast until they reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part.
Remove the pork from the oven and carefully spoon out any excess fat from the pan. Add the reserved glaze to the pan with the pork. Place the pan on the stovetop over medium heat and cook, turning the tenderloins in the glaze for several minutes until it thickly coats the pork. Remove the pan from the heat, loosely cover with foil, and leave to rest for a few minutes.
To serve, spoon the cabbage onto a serving platter or individual plates. Cut the tenderloins crosswise into slices 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the slices overlapping on top of the cabbage. Drizzle any glaze remaining in the pan over the pork. Serve immediately.
Cider-Glazed Pork Tenderloins with Braised Cabbage and Bacon
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