When you sit down to write a menu for a restaurant, you hate to see combinations like this. It's just too difficult to work around the fact that everything on the plate begins with the letter P (including the plate itself!).
But, thankfully this is not a restaurant.
And you are the kind of people (sorry, another "p") who probably (oh no) won't be perturbed (somebody stop me) by this preposterous post (let's just roll with it).
I prepared Pimentón-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Parmesan Polenta, Peperonata (peppers- perhaps pasillas, pimientos and jalapeños- and purple onions) and Pounded Parsley Pesto (with neither pine nuts nor parmesan can I proclaim it a pesto? Perhaps I should pass and pronounce it a positively perfect salsa).
Please don't presume that the plethora of P's means that this pleasantly pink pork should not be a priority for your next party. Permit me to plead: print this prime prize of a recipe. Consider yourself as privileged as a pasha to peruse such a precious and particularly plum piece of passionate poetry.
Pardon me, but this playfully plucky post is becoming a pathetic and pathological parody! (Per chance, my past posts about pears, persimmons, pomegranates, puffed-up puddings and even poached prunes have made me positively potty).
Hopefully a pleasurable picture will pique your appetite.
Porky Pig would be profoundly proud!
(If you read all that aloud, you may want to pause to wipe the spittle off your screen).
Th-th-th-that's all folks!
For those of you who are still reading (all, rather both..., no just you now), I've included the basic directions to reproduce this meal, my favorite of the past week or two. I honestly didn't even notice it was full of P's until I sat down to write this!
I especially enjoyed the complementary interplay of textures and flavors: creamy polenta, spicy peppers, smoky Spanish paprika (pimentón de la Vera), juicy tender pork, all topped with a piquant and crunchy hazelnut-parsley sauce. Hurry up and make this while you can still find fresh local peppers in the market.
I promise you'll be pleased!
(serves 3 or 4, depending on the size of your pork tenderloin and your appetite)
1 pork tenderloin, about a pound
Pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika, available from The Spanish Table)
polenta, preferably stone ground (1⁄4 cup per serving)
water (4 times the amount of polenta)
butter, about a tablespoon per serving
parmesan, grated, about 2 tablespoons per serving
2 or 3 peppers (red, yellow, pasilla, whatever you prefer)
jalapeño or serrano chile
1⁄2 red onion
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
parsley, finely chopped (about 1⁄4 cup)
small handful of hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed
extra virgin olive oil
Use a sharp knife to cut the silver skin of the pork tenderloin. Season pork generously with salt and then rub paprika all over until thoroughly coated (see photo). Chop up some thyme leaves and press onto the pork. Drizzle on a little olive oil. Ideally, allow to sit overnight, but I rarely plan ahead and it still comes out well.
Start your polenta. Bring water to a boil. Pour in polenta while stirring with a whisk. Season with salt. Continue stirring until thickens slightly and there are no lumps, then switch to wooden spoon. Bring up to a simmer, turn heat down to lowest possible, cover and stir every 10 minutes or so. Cook until creamy, usually 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of polenta. Stir in butter and cheeses right before serving. Taste for seasoning.
Cook the peperonata. Slice all of peppers (sweet and spicy) in half, remove seeds and slice thinly. Slice onion thinly. In a large pan over medium high heat, add olive oil and then peppers. Sauté (picture, left) until start to caramelize. Add onions, reduce heat to medium low and cover, stirring frequently. Add garlic after onions have started to wilt and turn translucent. Season with salt and continue to cook until peppers are as soft as you desire.
For the salsa, put the minced shallot in a small bowl and add about a teaspoon of vinegar to slightly pickle them. Add salt and let sit for 10 minutes. No more than half an hour before you plan to eat, add the parsley and the oil (too soon and it will turn yellow). Coarsely chop the nuts and add them. Add enough oil so the consistency looks like picture (right).
With all your components ready, it's time to cook the pork. Preheat a pan, preferably cast-iron, that is large enough to hold the whole tenderloin over medium high heat. When pan starts to smoke, pour in a tiny bit of olive oil lay the pork in the pan. Adjust the heat as necessary, low enough so that the paprika doesn't burn, but hot enough that the meat still browns. After 4 or 5 minutes, turn the pork over and brown the other side. It's round, so you may have to turn it on its sides like a sausage and brown all over.
The secret to a juicy pork tenderloin is to not overcook it. When the internal temperature of the thickest part of the pork reaches about 135-140˚F on a thermometer, take it out of the pan and put it on a plate to rest for about 10 minutes (the pork's internal temperature will continue to rise a few degrees). Slice the pork about 3⁄4-inch thick and fan over your polenta and peppers. Sprinkle a little coarse salt (such as my favorite Maldon sea salt) on your pork slices and pour over some salsa.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, such as a Provençal or Bandol rosé or an Italian Dolcetto, and enjoy.