Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Spiced Fig Compote

All the Thanksgiving editions of the food magazines are here. Food & Wine was first, followed closely by Bon Appetit. Vegetarian Times showed up next. Lagging behind, Saveur and Gourmet arrived on Thursday. I also skimmed the holiday recipes in Sunset, Better Homes & Gardens and Good Housekeeping. I get a LOT of magazines. Bon Appetit had the widest array of innovative, yet traditional recipes, and I liked Gourmet's cover best (nothing new there!). Which food maggie do you think put out the best Thanksgiving issue??

My best all-arounder award goes to F&W--the whole issue was packed with good stories, many NOT remotely turkey-centric. For example, their Well-Being section, spotlights Chef Jan Birnbaum who managed to lose half his body weight and now serves food in his restaurant that relies on healthy ingredients--not fat--for flavor. His exceedingly tasty pork tenderloin with spiced fig compote is easy enough to make on a weeknight.

The pork is coated with a blend of herbs, including lavendar. My mom recently sent me a lavendar spice blend she picked up at a lavendar farm in Hawaii, and it contained most of the herbs called for in the recipe. Don't worry if you don't have every herb on hand, and mix up a blend to suit your taste. If you can get some dried lavendar, however, I highly recommend it. I've just discovered it and love the unique flowery-savory twist it adds to roasted meats like pork or chicken.

I say not to stress over the herb blend too much because the fig compote is the real star. I used more figs than the recipe calls for because I felt the chef was a bit scanty with this nutritious and delicious dried fruit. You simmer the figs in a spiced wine and honey broth, and wow, is it tasty! I hated to discard this cooking liquid, so I saved it and stirred a little into the finished compote. Sadly, the photo does not do this dish justice, so look it up in your November issue of Food & Wine. With kale sauteed with garlic and lemon juice, this was a perfectly healthy, nutrient-packed fall meal.

Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Spiced Fig Compote
Adapted from Jan Birnbaum for Food & Wine
I eliminated some of the "chefiness" (short for "chef fussiness") from this recipe to make it faster, simpler and figgier than the original version.

Serves 4

5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried lavendar
2 tsp. whole grain mustard
2 tbs. olive oil, divided
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb. pork tenderloin
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
2 tbs. lemon juice
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
6 allspice berries
6 black peppercorns
12 dried black mission figs, stemmed and quartered
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

In a bowl, combine the garlic, rosemary, thyme, lavendar, mustard and about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Put the pork on a foil-lined baking sheet and coat it with the herb mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes, or refrigerate up to 6 hours.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, honey lemon juice, ginger, allspice, peppercorns and figs. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, steep for 10 more minutes and strain out the figs. You can either discard the liquid or sip it greedily yourself.

Scrape as much of the herb mixture as you can off the pork and reserve it in a small bowl. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper and sear on all sides until browned. Return the pork to the foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 145 degrees. Tent with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

While the pork roasts, finish the compote: Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the reserved herb mixture and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the wine and raisins and simmer for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the spiced figs to the skillet and continue simmering until compote thickens slightly, about 4 more minutes. If you lose too much liquid, add a bit more chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over the sliced pork.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love figs? No? I guess the proof's in the pudding...or tart, or pizza....

Fig and Goat Cheese Tart, Fig-Proscuitto Pizza, Feta-Stuffed Chicken with Fig Sauce...all in this one post...what was I thinking?!
Fabulous Fig Gelato is luscious in the summer months, but how about adding some warm spices like cinnamon and cardamom for a fall treat?

Everyone loves figs:
Fig-Orange-Chipotle Pork Roast from Becks n' Posh.
Fig Bars from Cookie Madness
Prosciutto, Fig and Sage Wraps from The Laughing Gastronome
A slew of links to figgy blog posts on Simply Recipes
Oat-Topped Fig Muffins on Culinary in the Country
Sage, Walnut and Dried Fig Stuffing on 101 Cookbooks
And Fig-Almond Tartlettes on (where else?) Tartlette.

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Kalyn said...

I did love some of the idea for Thanksgiving from Bon Appetit, but my favorite food magazine consistently is Fine Cooking. Their Thanksgiving issue was wonderful this year.

Nora Leah said...

Ok, not at all related to pork (but possibly related to fig?) ...

I noticed on Dessert First that you said the Bundt contest made you wanna bake a Bundt cake -- well here's your chance: I'm hosting a "National Big Bundt Appreciation Bake-off" and submissions are due by 11/12.

I'd love to see what you dream up!

Jennifer said...

I have a pork tenderloin and figs in my freezer -- this is dinner next week!

Julie said...

Kalyn: you know, I've never really read fine cooking, but with your endorsement, I'm going to check it out next time I'm at the bookstore.
Nora: Thanks for the info--if I can fit another dessert into my life, I will try to make it a bundt!
Jennifer: Cool! You'll love's so great when the blog can really help somebody out:)

Kristen said...

I really loved F&W's issue too. I finally got to read through it last night.
Your herb-crusted pork looks great!

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorite recipes - I got major compliments from my DP. Talked about it for an entire year until I finally got the hint to make it again.