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Cooking With Grapes

I’m sure I’ve said before that I’m not big on fruit with my meat at meal times.  There have always been exceptions, of course, like applesauce with pork chops, pineapples in sweet-n-sour chicken, but for the most part, the idea of cooking fruit and meat together just doesn’t appeal to me.  Yet, when I’ve ventured out and taken a chance, I’m almost always rewarded with something delicious.  Last week I received my new copy of Eating Well magazine, and right there in the weeknight meals section was a recipe for Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grape Sauce.  I happened to have a pair of pork tenderloins in the freezer, and sweet black grapes had been on sale, so this recipe was destined to be put together in my kitchen.

Reading through the recipe, I knew right off the bat I would be making a few changes.  The first obvious one was the grapes.  I had black ones, they would have to do.  Secondly, I would use onions instead of shallots, and thirdly, I would use just chicken stock instead of the Madeira or wine.  I popped the grapes into the oven to roast, and I’ll tell you, the smell from that oven was fantastic!  I really wasn’t sure about the idea of cooking grapes, but while they were roasting away the whole house smelled like a juice factory- it was lovely.  Other than the roasting time for the grapes, this came together super fast.  That’s one of the great things about pork tenderloin, is that it cooks quickly, and it has a fantastic flavor as well.  I made some garlic mashed potatoes and a spinach salad to accompany, and we were in business with a rather interesting looking pork dish.

You would never know that this was a weeknight meal.  The roasted grape sauce gave the pork a depth that made me think this pork had been cooking slowly for hours.  The sauce was on the sweet side, so I for one am glad I did not use a Madeira or wine, that might have taken it over the top as far as sweetness goes.  I also thought, belatedly, that if you had a little more time, a leek or two in place of the shallots or onions would be amazing as well.  My last criticism of this recipe is the cornstarch at the end.  I thought it didn’t need the thickening boost.  The combination of reduction and mustard was plenty, I thought, and the cornstarch added a thickness to the sauce that wasn’t necessary- it made it a little more heavy in mouth-feel, and the sauce was so delightful and wonderful, that next time I will just eliminate that step entirely.  If it’s too thick I can always let it cook another minute or two to reduce.  Overall, this was a keeper- a great weeknight meal, but I also thought it was spectacular enough to go on the table should company come calling, so I’ll be keeping this one in mind.

Oh, and those black grapes?  I would totally use those again for a spectacular color- just look at this!

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grape Sauce

from Eating Well, December 2008

4 cups red and/or green grapes
1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup Madeira or white wine
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch

Position racks in the middle and lower third of oven; preheat to 425ºF.

Place grapes on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast on the lower rack, shaking the pan occasionally to turn the grapes, until they are shriveled, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, rub pork with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pork and brown on one side, about 2 minutes.  Turn the pork over and transfer the pan to the top oven rack.  Roast the pork until just barely pink in the center and an instant-read thermometer registers 145ºF, 12 to 14 minutes.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board to rest before slicing.

Place the pan over medium heat (use caution, handle will be hot), add shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Add Madeira or wine and cook until reduced by half, 2 to 4 minutes.  Stir in broth, thyme and mustard; bring to a simmer.  Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl and stir into the pan sauce.  Cook until thickened, 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Stir in the grapes.  Serve the sliced pork with the grape sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 299 calories, 6 grams fat ( 1 gram sat, 4 gram mono), 74 Milligrams cholesterol, 31 grams carbohydrate; 26 grams protein, 2 grams fiber

4 comments to Cooking With Grapes

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