Just imagine this. Juicy flavorful pork tenderloin that’s been rubbed with a dry blend of ground fennel and coriander, then quickly browned on the stovetop and finished off in the oven. Now dress that goodness with a topping of bacon and shallots that have been glazed with maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Do I have your attention?
This recipe comes from one of my favorite chefs, Michael Chiarello. It is featured in his beautiful cookbook, At Home with Michael Chiarello. I was so fortunate to meet Michael during one of our many trips to California. It was actually when we were there celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary (check it out here – a fun read). We were in the heart of wine country, in Yountville to be exact, just roaming around enjoying the amazing surroundings when (O.M.G.!) I spotted Michael Chiarello walking down the path in my direction. I was so starstruck and shocked that, as he walked by me, I exclaimed “Michael! Is that really you?” I can’t begin to describe how gracious he was. To be approached that way by a total stranger and he just couldn’t be nicer. Of course, I was going on and on about how much I loved his Food Network show and how I had several of his books. It was my husband’s idea to get my picture with him and I am so glad he thought of it. Here we are just outside Michael’s amazing restaurant, Bottega. I am totally out-of-control gushing here. And the photo quality isn’t the best but you get the idea.
And yes. We did have dinner at Bottega and it was over the top in every way imaginable. We will go back.
So on to the food. I did switch it up a bit to suit our personal tastes. For instance, the original recipe calls for pancetta and molasses. I sometimes worry about the saltiness of pancetta so using bacon made sense for us. And the switch from molasses to maple syrup just seemed like a good idea. As you can probably tell, it’s all about what you prefer.
Let’s begin with the bacon-maple dressing. It all comes together in just under fifteen minutes, so it’s a good plan to have all of the ingredients prepped and ready to go. If you find that it’s difficult to cut the bacon into small pieces, it is helpful if it is super cold …you may even want to place it in the freezer for 30 minutes or so before you get started.
Once the bacon bits are brown and crispy, push them aside so that you can drain off all but about two tablespoons of the bacon fat. You’re now ready to continue with the remaining ingredients.
If you want to prepare the dressing early in the day, that’ll work. Transfer it over to your serving dish and store it in the fridge. It heats up nicely in the microwave when you are ready to serve it.
Let’s work on the fennel spice rub. What you see here is what I consider to be a shortcut. I used pre-ground spices and mix just what is needed to coat the pork tenderloin.
This combination is delicious. It can be sprinkled on roasted vegetables. Rubbed on a pork roast or chicken before it is roasted. To add another level of flavor, try Michael’s Toasted Fennel Spice Rub. You start off by toasting the whole fennel and coriander seeds along with whole white peppercorns. You’ll then grind the cooled seeds along with the salt until it’s all finely ground. Here’s a bonus …it can be done in your blender! It makes quite a bit. If using this method, you’ll need 1/4 cup for the Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin. The mixture can be stored in an airtight container, away from the light and heat for up to 4 months. Or it can be frozen for up to a year. You can even pour some in small decorative jars, to be shared as gifts.
The coated pork is browned on the stovetop in a heavy-duty ovenproof skillet, then placed in the oven to finish. Be careful not to overcook the pork. It’s best when it is slightly pink in the middle. For medium doneness, remove the skillet from the oven when an instant-read thermometer registers 155°F.
While the meat is resting, pour off all but about one tablespoon of liquid from the pan. Place it over high heat and add the spinach. It will take less than a minute to wilt. Quickly remove it from the pan and transfer it to a platter, to halt the cooking process. Slice up that awesome pork and pile it alongside the sautéed spinach. Now for the best part …sprinkle that amazing bacon-maple dressing over the whole thing. And be sure to offer extra on the side. That’s a must!
Oh. And one other thing. Can you just imagine serving this along with a fresh batch of Sauerkraut with Bacon & Sautéed Apples? I’d say that takes pork & sauerkraut to a whole new level!
pan-roasted pork tenderloin with bacon-maple dressing
Adapted from Michael Chiarello's Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fennel and Pancetta-Molasses Dressing as featured in At Home with Michael Chiarello
- 1 pound smoked bacon, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup shallot, thinly sliced (about 3 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
- 2 tablespoons ground fennel
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 3 pork tenderloins, about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds each
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound fresh baby spinach
- finely ground sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it is crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and raise the heat to medium-high.
Add the sliced shallots and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the sliced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Add the chopped sage and cook for just 10 seconds to release the fragrance. Stir in the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Cook until half the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Preheat oven to 425°F. In a small bowl, combine the ground fennel, ground coriander, salt & pepper. Stir to mix well.
Trim any fat and sinew from the pork tenderloins. Evenly coat the tenderloins with the fennel mixture.
In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, sear the tenderloins on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Move the skillet to the preheated oven and cook the pork until an instant-read thermometer registers 155°F for medium doneness, 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the tenderloins to a cutting board to rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the skillet. Place the skillet over high heat. Add the spinach and cook just until it is barely wilted about 20 seconds. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Immediately remove the spinach from the pan to halt the cooking and place it on a serving platter.
Slice the pork tenderloins across the grain on the diagonal. Arrange the slices on the platter alongside the spinach. Whisk the dressing briefly and spoon it over top of the pork. Serve warm or at room temperature.
If you like your pork less well-done, remove it from the oven when the internal temperature reads 145°F and be sure to allow for at least a 3-minute rest.