Perfect Fall Dinner – Dijon Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Lentils and Fried Onions

As the weather turns to the cosy-sweater-and-maybe-a-scarf variety, I find myself looking to the dining room table rather than the picnic table as a place to entertain friends.  It’s no longer warm enough to eat outside, but we can still bring the brilliant leaves-in-full-color glory to our tables with pumpkin, beets, squashes and leeks.  The deeper scents of root vegetables roasting, squashes simmering, and onions beginning to caramelize all satisfy that nesting instinct to come inside and make a warm, welcoming space for family and friends.

This meal is intended for a weekend evening of entertaining and lingering at the table with laughter and stories.

The fried onions are a wonderful, crunchy treat, but if you are pressed for time you may excluded them.  The time pressed may also choose to skip the pan sauce at the end.

Dijon Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Lentils and Fried Onions

2 to 3 pounds pork tenderloin with silver skin removed
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter

Fried Onions:
2/3 cup canola oil
2 cups sliced onions
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups lentils
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves

Cut the pork tenderloin into 15 or 16 equal pieces and flatten them with the palm of your hand.  Rub them on both sides with the mustard, salt and pepper.  Five minutes before the lentils are done, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Heat two tablespoon of the reserved oil.  Carefully place the pork into the pan and cook for 5 minutes on one side and 3-4 minutes on the second.  Remove before they are fully cooked and let rest as they cook the rest of the way.  Meanwhile, deglaze the pan with the wine and stock.  Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and whisk in the butter.  Spoon lentils onto the plate, place the pork chops on top and spoon sauce on top.

Fried Onions:
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Heat the oil and carefully add the onions, frying for 5 minutes.  Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and set on paper towel to drain and sprinkle with salt.  Remove all of the oil from the pan and set aside.

Using the onion pan add the lentils, chicken stock, thyme and bay leaves and simmer for 30 minutes.

Serves 6-8

Calories vs. Carbs – Pork Tenderloin with Apple Jack and Sage Sauce

I have something unpopular to say:  It’s all about calories in and calories out.  In the long run, I’m not convinced that carbohydrates have anything to do with whether we permanently loose weight or not.  What if we just ate less and moved more?  What if we didn’t eat that second helping, took the stairs, turned off the television and sat at the table with our family for dinner.  Easy to say, I know, but not as easy to do.  But wait, not as easy as looking at all the labels in the grocery store to make sure that they are low in carbs?  Not as easy as thinking about everything that goes on your plate and finding carrots and peas suspect because they have too much sugar?  Carrots and peas! – can you say “low in calories and fat?” Not as easy as trying to find substitutes for most fruit, yogurt, bread, cereal, pasta… Does this really make any sense?  Or does it really give us any joy in what we are placing in our bodies?  I don’t think long-term weight loss can be manufactured and packaged.  Some food engineer in laboratory created that low-carb bread that some folks say it’s okay to slather with mayonnaise and two pounds of bacon.  It’s not real food!  I think it’s got to come from changing long-term habits.  Very dull, but true – it always comes back to moderation – using butter less, adding another vegetable to our day, eating a juicy plum instead of that chocolate cake when we are looking for something sweet.  An entire industry has been spawned on low-carbs and all of a sudden potatoes and grains are getting a bad rap.  Sustainability is the key.  My bet is that in 10 years we’ll look back on low-carb diets as a fad just like big hair and disco music (wait, is that popular again?).  Nevermind, I didn’t like it the first time around.

Pork Tenderloin with Apple Jack and Sage Sauce

2 pork tenderloins, (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total, trimmed of silver skin)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil

Apple Jack and Sage Sauce:
1 medium onion, minced (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage
1/4 cup apple jack or brandy
3 to 4 tablespoons chicken stock or water, extra if needed
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°.  Rub the tenderloin with the salt, pepper, and paprika.  Heat the oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat.   Add the pork tenderloins and brown it on all sides.

Reduce heat to medium; add the onions, garlic, and salt and cook until the onions are translucent.  Turn the tenderloin occasionally while the onions are cooking.  Add the tomatoes and sage and cook for another minute.  Add the apple jack, stock and heavy cream and bring to a simmer.

Place the sauté pan in the oven and cook until the pork reaches internal temperature of is 145° for medium and 150° for medium well, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Set aside the tenderloin and puree the sauce until smooth

Cut the tenderloin on an angle into 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices and serve with the sauce.

Serves 4-6