I like my flavours in constant competition. Hot peppers in my chocolate. Chocolate with my popcorn. That sorta thing. So when our dear Natasha first made this pork tenderloin, she got me right where I like it.
It's no secret that I love pork, in all its iterations. A roast or a chop, good in the summer or winter. With apples or peaches or laden with heavy aromatic herbs, pork can do me no wrong. But how about crusted with toasted cumin seeds and brown sugar and served with a cognac cream sauce with dijon mustard. How about all those flavours? Yes. Sweet, smoky, and when served with only-slightly-bitter Chinese broccoli (Kai-lan) and a roasted garlic parmesan risotto, all your flavour-desires can be met in one meal.
Cumin and Brown Sugar-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Cognac Cream Sauce
(I made twice as much as this recipe will detail.)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and loosely ground
1 tablespoon crushed black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2lbs of pork tenderloin
On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread your cumin seeds and roast at 400°F for just a couple of minutes. It'll be done when everything starts to smell like cumin. Crush along with the peppercorns, mix with brown sugar and salt and evenly press into your tenderloin. Cover and set aside to amalgamate for a while.
Sear your pork in an oven-safe pan (Do you all have pans that can go from your stovetop to your oven?) until nicely browned on all sides and then cook for 30 minutes or so (until the internal temperature is approximately 135°F) and then tent under foil. The temperature will continue to rise and the meat will remain moist. In the meantime . . .
Cognac Cream Sauce
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup cognac
2 teaspoons grainy dijon
Whisk together these ingredients. Combine and boil until reduced by half. Add the pan juices from the pork and serve over the meat.
THE BONUS ROUND
Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Risotto
2 large heads garlic, whole and unpeeledApproximately 4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups arborio rice
2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, leaves picked
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
Risotto has a reputation for being difficult. It's not. It's just time-consuming and requires constant attention. Like, literally, you can't leave the stove for a full half-hour. So stretch your stirring arm before you get to it.
Hack the top off your whole garlic, douse in salt and olive oil, and in a covered pan roast at 400° for an hour or so until super-soft. Set aside to cool a little. When you can handle it, squeeze out the soft, sweet garlic and, with a fork, mash into an even paste. Set aside.
In a sauce pan, set your chicken broth to an almost-boil. The key to risotto is cooking the rice with hot liquid.
Soften your shallots and minced garlic cloves in a large, oiled heavy-bottomed skillet. When they are just translucent, jack your heat to high and dump in the rice. Continually stirring, allow the rice to get hot and fry for a minute or so. Add the wine and lower the heat (to medium-high), continually stirring, and allow the alcohol to burn off. It'll smell super.
When the liquid absorbs, add your first ladle of hot stock. Keep stirring and allow to incorporate. Pinch of salt. Toss in your fresh thyme leaves and your roasted garlic. Stir. (This seems like a boatload of garlic, but remember: it's sweet from the roasting, so it doesn't have any of that usual garlic burn.)
Continue to add hot stock, stir, and allow to cook away. The goal is to add stock, stir, and cook at a rate that the rice is done by the time you run out of hot stock. TIP: If you run out of stock but your rice still tastes a bit firm, go ahead and add a bit of hot water and allow to cook a little longer. No biggie.
When your rice is 99% done (TIP: Your rice should be 99% cooked, but still kinda wet, so don't allow the last bit of liquid to fully absorb) pull from the heat and loosely stir in the butter and parmesan. Cover your pan and allow to sit for 5 minutes. It'll get super creamy and delicious. Serve right away.
I dig fruity Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand's Marlborough region, so tend to try them all when they make their way into our liquor store. Tonight we had two bottles (T.J. was here!) - The first was Mount Riley (LCBO, $16.95) which was a bit -- green. Flavours that hinted at an unripe banana. Not altogether unpleasant, but not sure I'd buy it again. We then moved onto Alpine Valley (LCBO, $14.95), bright and crisp, but felt a bit too summery with no earthy notes to keep it winter-appropriate.