I recently took a spontaneous trip to Vermont to pay a visit to my parents. (Where I heard some news about the proposed state vegetable that made me smile.) January can be a gloomy month, especially this winter with lots of wind and cold but no snow. Things have been so busy around South Pond these past few years that I haven’t had much chance to enjoy proper visits, the kind with no other purpose than just to hang out, enjoy the view from the house, see my mother’s quilting creations, catch up on U.S. politics with my dad and of course, watch television (something we don’t have at the farm).
I arrived after a gruelling nine-hour drive, during which I exhausted my supply of podcasts and survived bouts of freezing rain. How wonderful to be greeted by the warm smell of the kitchen and a glass of nice wine (better than I usually serve)! No responsibilities, no cooking, no worries. Ahh. . .
My mother is a great cook. Growing up in Germany and then spending time in France, she developed her own technique, different from my grandmother’s farm-style approach in the kitchen. My mom has European flair and sophistication—even Spam wasn’t boring when served at our house!
Lucky me—on this occasion, she had invented a new recipe and was eager for me to try it. Pork tenderloin is tricky to cook; it so easily dries out and loses flavour. Her creation was absolutely delicious, and a perfect end to a long, damp, cold day.
Medallions with Fennel 1 leek, white part only, cleaned thoroughly and sliced 2 shallots, thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced 1 pork tenderloin, 1 ½ to 2 lbs 1/4 cup flour salt and pepper 1/2 cup white wine or vermouth 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional) 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon butter 1/4 cup whipping cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Put the flour in a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste. Slice the pork into 1/2-inch slices and dredge them in the flour mixture. In a shallow Dutch oven or ovenproof pan with a lid, heat the oil at medium. Add the pork and brown about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the butter to the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Add the leeks; sauté them slowly, being careful not to brown or burn them—they should be melting and soft. Add the shallots, garlic and fennel seeds, if using. Sauté for 2 minutes to release their flavours. Stir in the sliced fennel bulb, cover the pan and let the vegetables soften together for about 3 minutes.
Add the slices of pork, tucking them in around the vegetables. Add the white wine or vermouth and cover. Place the pan in the oven for 20 minutes. If you are going to use the cream, add it when you take the pan out and briefly heat on top of the stove, being careful not to let the liquid boil. The cream does add calories but it also makes the dish velvety and delicious!
My mother served this with couscous, Brussels sprouts and a green salad. It was comfort food at its best, with a bit of “French” sophistication!