The (Alleged) Best Thing I’ve Ever Cooked: Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Fennel Pork Tenderloin recipe

I admit, I am a serial offender when it comes to hyperbole and superlatives. Every single solitary story I tell and claim I make is grossly exaggerated and wildly blown out of proportion. It’s okay though. It makes life way more interesting and anyone who knows me scales down whatever comes out of my mouth by a factor of at least 60. I’ve come to accept this silly bias and compulsive nitpicking about the truth. Though for the record, I did run through the streets of Seattle with handfulls of peas, hide in a doghouse, and conduct a cryogenics experiment with mutant gold fish. Those are all completely, unexaggeratedly true stories.

So I guess I can’t completely blame you, when you read the title: BEST THING I’VE EVER COOKED, and you are a little wary. I get it. I’ll chalk it up to consistent writing and pat myself on the back for the ability to keep you all coming back with (exaggerated) bated breath. But this time it’s not me. The designation of THE BEST THING I’VE EVER COOKED is completely (partially) unbiased, (mostly) unprompted, and (probably) warranted. Even divided by 60, this was still an above normal dinner.

Pork tenderloin is really a great little piece of meat. One tenderloin is the perfect amount for two people, it cooks up quickly, is fairly inexpensive, and as long as you don’t overcook the living bejeezus out of it, it’s hard to screw up. Pigs and fennel bulbs were basically put on this earth so that we could eat them together, and this recipe really showcases that. It uses fennel seeds, fennel bulb, and fennel frond, meaning one thing: If you don’t like fennel, you probably shouldn’t be surprised if you make this and don’t like it. Writing is on the wall folks – must like fennel to like this dish.

But on that note, fennel is unbelievably delicious, so you shouldn’t have too hard of a time complying with that. (No hyperbole there) It’s sweet, with a subtle hint of licorice, and the roasted chunks of fennel in this recipe are really quite lovely.

The only thing you need to do to prep a tenderloin is to trim off the silver skin. It’ll shrink during cooking and turn tough and be difficult eat (and not delicious). Just wiggle the tip of your knife under it and slice it off, as close to the meat as possible.

Coat the trimmed tenderloin with the fennel, salt, and pepper mixture.

Brown the meat on all sides. You’re not cooking it all the way through, just getting a good sear – high heat for just a couple minutes.

After searing the meat, remove it from the pan and add the fennel, garlic, and onions, and brown for a few minutes.

When the fennel is soft, place the tenderloin back in the pan, place it in the preheated oven, and cook until it reaches 140 degrees.

pork tenderloin and fennel recipe

After the pork is done cooking, place the meat on a platter (lightly covered with foil) to rest. Deglaze and finish the pan sauce.

Kale goes with everything! Trim, chop, sprinkle with a little salt, add a few tablespoons of stock, cover and cook until soft.

Fennel is so often passed over because it looks super weird and people don’t know how to tackle it. The fronds are typically cut off at the top of the bulb and either discarded or the little wispy leaves are used as a garnish. To take on the bulb itself, trim about 1/8″ off the bottom (just to get rid of the discolored edge), and then you may either completely remove the outer most layer as you would an onion, or use a vegetable peeler to remove just the edge of the outer layer. Unless it’s pretty banged up, I usually just use the vegetable peeler. The layers are quite thick, and if you peel the entire outside layer off, it’s easily to end up with a fennel bulb that’s 1/2 the size.

how to cut fennel

Trim the top of the fennel off, and slice about 1/8″ off the bottom.

From there, cut it in half, and cut out the core at the bottom. Then slice or chop it as you would an onion. See? The easiest thing you’ve ever done!

how to cut fennel

Slice the bulb in half, and cut out the core.

From there, cut the fennel to the desired size.

photo (26)I do hope you try this BEST EVER recipe. Tell me what you think. I’d be quite content to know that you liked it. I’ll leave you with one last parting (completely hyperbole and superlative-free) thought. This is the cutest dog in the entire universe. Tell me I’m wrong.


Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Fennel Wedges

Click here to print this recipe.
Adapted from: Gourmet Magazine
Serves: 2
Time to prepare: 45 minutes

1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pound pork tenderloin
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, reserving fronds
1 onion, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Crush fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle, wrap in a kitchen towel and crush with bottom of a heavy skillet, or roughly chop in a spice grinder.

Pat pork dry, then sprinkle with crushed fennel seeds and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cut fennel bulbs lengthwise into 1/2-inch wedges.

Heat oil in a 12-inch oven-proof heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown pork on all sides, about 6 minutes total, then transfer to a plate.

Sauté garlic, onion slices, and fennel wedges in skillet until fennel is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.

Add wine, stirring and scraping up brown bits, then stir in broth and butter.

Put pork on top of fennel and onion mixture, and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, transfer skillet to stovetop (handle will be hot) and boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been reduced to a glaze. Stir in lemon juice and 1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds. Thinly slice pork and serve over fennel with sauce.

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Comments: 2

  1. Lani May 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm Reply

    I made this the other night and it was INCREDIBLE. I loved how the fennel was used…seeds, bulb, AND fronds. It was delicious. I had 2 slices and my husband ate the entire rest of the pan. Highly recomended for a weeknight dinner or even a dinner party.

    • Seattle Palate May 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm Reply

      Thanks so much, Lani! Glad you and your hubs enjoyed it! Maybe it is the most delicious thing ever after all :)

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