Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pork and Grapes -- A New Twist on an Old Favorite

One of my all-time favorite special occasion recipes is Jeff Smith's Pork with Wine and Grapes from the cookbook The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine

It is no secret that I was a huge fan of his cookbooks back in college and my early twenties.  They were the first cookbooks I ever bought for myself.  Those books would never fly today.  They were compact mass-market paperbacks (I bought my first copy at Kmart), dense with text, with no glossy photos, no step-by-step instructions, and no easy page turning.  Somehow I learned to cook from those books.  Maybe Smith knew he didn't need all the bells and whistles to make his recipes doable and tasty.  I know I say this all the time, but I miss that crazy old pervert!

The recipe is not a difficult one, but it is somewhat extravgant.  You marinate a pork roast in brandy, thyme, garlic, onion, and olive oil.  Then you slowly braise it in a mixture of wine, grapes, and heavy cream.  The recipe calls for a butt or shoulder, bu most of the time  in the past I just used the biggest loin I could find.  The richness of the sauce helped it stand up to that kind of long cooking and still be tasty. 

I was having a craving for that recipe recently.  I hadn't made it in quite some time. I guess everyone has become too health conscious.  Plus my husband won't touch it.  (Pork and dairy?  Am I trying to kill him?)  I decided I wanted to make it again, but find a way to make it a little less rich and also cut back on the number of servings since I would be the only one eating it.

My solution was simple.  I used a pork tenderloin instead of a larger roast.  I eliminated the cream.  I also sliced the grapes in half (Smith doesn't tell you to do this in the original recipe) so they would release more of their juices.  In the end I sprinkled a few toasted pine nuts on top, because everything tastes better with toasted pine nuts on top.  I still used Smith's marinade though.  There is nothing that this marinade won't make more delicious.

I'm starting to eat all of my meals off of dessert plates to trick my body into thinking I'm eating more.  I posed the dish with some slices of bread in this photo because some bread to soak up the juice is a nice idea.  I didn't actually eat the bread that night though.

Pork Tenderloin with Grapes and Wine

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 onion, cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (plus 2 Tbl more for frying)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbl butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 grapes, halved
  • 2 Tbl pine nuts, lightly toasted
Mix together brandy, rosemary, thyme, onion, garlic, and olive oil in a nonreactive bowl.  Place tenderloin in marinade.  Cover and refrigerate.  Marinate eight hours or overnight.

Heat remaining olive oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat.  Sprinkle the tenderloin with salt and pepper and brown really well on all sides.  Get a good crust on it. 

Add grapes and wine to the pan.  Bring to a simmer.  Simmer the tenderloin for another 30 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.  Remove from heat and let rest a few minutes.  Slice and serve topped with grapes and sauce and a sprinkling of pine nuts. 


Rosemary said...

Pretty disciplined to resist the bread, aren't you? I'm impressed. This pork and grape dish is even more impressive though. A nice fresh take on one of your faves! That marinade sounds great.

bellini said...

I like the lightened up version.