Pork tenderloin marsala with raisins and fennel -- 03/13/04

Yesterday I was chatting with a colleague (via one of those computer instant message programs -- she was in Pittsburgh and I was here at home in R.I.) while waiting for a telephone conference to begin and I mentioned what I had made for dinner the night before. She asked for the recipe. Recipe? I had to confess that I had no recipe, I just kind of made it up as I went along. Oh, okay, not quite -- I had planned it out during my commute home (yes, I actually went to the office twice this week). A few minutes ago I received a notify e-mail from Domestic Goddess (reminder to self: must update links pages!) and was enjoying reading her latest culinary adventures (it's a good thing I had a big French-toast breakfast) and the theme for this entry became obvious.

Sliced pork tenderloin marsala with raisins and fennel

Where this came from: One of the meals I had in Las Vegas in January had a slice of pork topped with a mixture of raisins and fennel and I thought it was an interesting and tasty idea. Last month I got a package of pork tenderloin which, when unwrapped, held two small tenderloins (each about 3/4 of a pound) so I cooked one (with two kinds of raisins, dried cranberries, and fennel) and put the other one in the freezer. I have been thinking about making marsala chicken sometime soon so I had purchased a bottle of marsala wine a week or so ago (never seem to have any marsala when the urge to cook with it strikes -- usually have twenty or so bottles of wine around but they tend to be merlot, pinot noir, shiraz, chardonnay, pinot grigio). Thursday I worked from home in the morning but went to the office in the afternoon (needed to print and to fax, etc.) and despite planning on leaving by four o'clock it was after six by the time I actually got out of the office. I don't know what to fix for dinner and I don't want to stop anywhere on the way home -- and then I remember the pork tenderloin in the freezer... and marsala wine... and I have some potatoes... hmmm... so I just juggled this around while driving and when I got home I tossed the tenderloin in the microwave to thaw it just a little (so it would be easier to slice) and peeled some potatoes and cut them up and started them cooking.
What I did
  • sliced pork tenderloin into slices about a third of an inch thick -- not done with a ruler and the thickness varied but that's about what the average was -- because of the shape of the tenderloin these round pieces of pork ranged from an inch and a half to a bit over two inches in diameter
  • put the pork into a heated non-stick frying pan -- medium flame (gas stove)
  • tossed some fennel seeds into the pan -- how much? I didn't measure. Maybe between one and two tablespoons? Enough so it looked like enough.
  • tossed in some golden raisins -- how much? I didn't measure. (Do you see a pattern here? *grin*) More than half a cup, less than a full cup. (I had also wanted to add dried cranberries but apparently they had been eaten.)
  • poured in a little bit of marsala wine as the pork was cooking -- maybe half a cup -- sprinkled a little bit of Italian seasoning (you guessed it -- no measurement)
  • turned the pork when bottom was nicely browned and continued cooking until done
  • removed the pork chops (along with most of the raisins and fennel) to a plate, covering them with another plate to keep them warm
  • added about a cup and a half of marsala to the pan, turning up the heat -- sprinkled about tablespoon of flour (Wondra Quick Mixing Flour) in to the pan and also added about a quarter cup of milk (of course in this house that means skim milk) -- and quickly cooked the sauce (gravy?) down by about a third
In the meanwhile... I had taken some stale bread... a nice country style Tuscan bread leftover from early in the week... nice artisan bread without preservatives... delicious fresh but gets hard quickly... but it's a great start for sort of bruschetta... slice... put slices on a cookie sheet... sprinkle with basil, pour a spoonful (or two) of extra virgin olive oil on each slice, top with a few shreds of Parmesan cheese, chopped green pepper, chopped red onion, chopped tomato, sprinkle with a touch of Italian seasoning -- put in a 400° oven for several minutes. (Yeah, "several" -- after five or six minutes take a peak, maybe it'll need another two or three minutes, maybe not, you decide.) I love bruschetta and probably never make it exactly the same way twice... sometimes it's mostly the oven toasted bread with olive oil and just a touch of pepper or maybe tomatoes... (yes, of course, garlic, never forget the garlic)... and other times it's heaped with veggies and such.

And don't forget to mash the potatoes... Most of the gravy from the pan should be poured on the mashed potatoes and the rest poured over the pork slices.

See what I mean... I don't really work with recipes. I love to read recipes and I might check out three or four different recipes for something I want to try, but I treat it as more of an art form than a science. That's why I can't bake. (Fortunately, although she hates to cook, Nancy loves to bake... and she is really good.) Baking has to be so precise, exact measurements, etc. It makes me feel as if I am back in school in a chemistry lab. Not fun at all.

[Of course I can screw up the cooking from time to time. Last night I made a really good spaghetti sauce but I misread the clock and lost track of time, overcooking the pasta... the penne rigote was limp and soggy instead of al dente.]

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