Pork tenderloin was recently on sale at our local Sprouts, and for some reason I almost never buy this cut. Maybe because I feel like pork is a sturdy meat... it's not a crown roast of lamb, a delicate quail, foie gras... it's slabs of bacon, gobs of pork belly, a chop for crying out loud. This recipe is extra special, because it's meat in meat. It really is amazing that you can get the delicate flavor from the tenderloin meat with the saltiness of the pancetta inside.
Fennel is a unique flavor - think anise, but cooking it mellow it out. So even if you think you have an aversion to all things black licorice give it a whirl. Keep reading for the recipe...
1 head fennel, green parts* trimmed off and the bulb chopped
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 oz pancetta
Preheat oven to 350
In a large cast iron skillet, cook the pancetta until it becomes slightly crispy. Remove from pan and cook the onions and fennel until onions become translucent.
Cut your pork tenderloin in 1/2 lengthwise (like you're butterflying it) and lay flat. Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. Place the pancetta and the fennel/onion mixture down the middle. Roll 'er up and tie with twine. Put the pork in the pan and sear each side about 3-4 minutes. Place in the oven for an additional 30 minutes.
If you're feeling a little ambitious and want to make a pan sauce..... after you remove the skillet from the oven, return it to the stovetop. Let the pork rest on a cutting board and turn on that flame. Reduce the juices in the pan scraping up all the bits. Once it's reduced by 1/2, hit it with a little butter or coconut milk and reduce another minute. Drizzle over your pork.
*The green stalks and fronds from the fennel can be saved to make stock, and can also garnish plates.