There are a passel, no a fat lot of words you should avoid when discussing food, and revelatory is one of them, as are all its forms: revelation, revelatory et cetera. But WTF is a girl to say when she truly, unmistakably has a REVELATION when she puts something inside her mouth? How can you describe a dish that has revelatory qualities WITHOUT using the word revelatory? Let’s try and skirt it, shall we? This is gonna be AWESOME, or as someone I recently blocked on facebook often says, AWSOME sans the center “E”. As in, “this voodoo doll I just made of Mariah Carey is SOOOO AWSOME.” Gag me.
So I wanted to make really succulent, disintegrating pork tenderloin and I knew slow and low was the name of the game. You know me, if it’s slow and low, it’s en sous vide, right? Sous vide pork tenderloin, however, needs a little somethin’ somethin’ to get the juices flowing, so for a moment I pondered sauce. The bed of sunchoke gnocchi I planned to serve it on was non-negotiable, and in terms of complementary flavors to sunchokes, I tend to like something earthily sweet.
Agrodolce came to mind, which is an Italian sweet and sour sauce. Italians often prepare rabbit in sweet and sour sauce, or coniglio in agrodolce. I once dined on this dish in the wine cellar of an elderly woman who had painstakingly prepared the rabbit the same way she had been taught by her mother, who had learned it from her own mother and so on. The bella nonna looked pleased but pained when I complemented her on the succulence of the rabbit. She explained that she loved making it, but couldn’t really eat it anymore because of all the tiny rabbit bones that inevitably infiltrate the sauce. Trying to be ever-helpful, I suggested she substitute chicken for the rabbit instead, since the bones were larger and easier to avoid. Her eyes grew as big as figs and she shuffle/stomped off. I ran the conversation through my head trying to figure out if I had misspoke, in my shaky Italian.
She avoided me for much of the night, sending her husband to our section of the table with any subsequent courses. Befuddled about my apparent lack of manners, I drowned my sobriety in bicchiere after bicchiere of Barbaresco. The wine must have fortified me- and slackened my tongue- for I cornered the sweet little woman and accosted her in ubriaco Italian asking her what I had done. She was either a kind soul or a pious one, as her eyes softened and she apologized for the abrupt end to our earlier conversation. She explained to me that it would simply be unthinkable to use any other meat in coniglio in agrodolce because that was just how it had been done forever. Why was I, some enterprising New Worlder, waltzing into her country, her region, and telling her how to prepare her food? Even if it made complete sense it was still an abject imposition on tradition.
And now would you look at me? Obviously I did not learn my lesson, because not only am I making an agrodolce sauce for pork tenderloin, I’m MAKING IT WITH CRANBERRIES- the horror! The cranberry element adds the perfect element of tart piquancy you want in a sweet and sour sauce, thus enabling me to use Verjus instead of vinegar for a slightly sweeter take on the acidity factor. Here’s the thing about this sauce though. It’s fucking revelatory. I can’t help it, there are no other words to describe the lip-licking delight that is this sauce. Older readers might remember sunchoke gnocchi has appeared here in a previous life, so I won’t post the recipe, but rest assured, if you’re looking for a clever use for sunchokes, there is no other place you’d rather be.
Pork Tenderloin Cranberry Agrodolce
Serves 4-6, 8 hours inactive, ½ hour active time
- 1 pork tenderloin
- 2 cups cranberries
- ½ c honey
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 medium shallot, chopped
- ¾ c Verjus
- Heat the water bath to 185°F. Place the tenderloin, cranberries, honey, bay leaves and salt in a food safe vacuum bag and seal. Immerse in the water bath for 6-8 hours.
- Remove the tenderloin bag and separate the tenderloin from the berry liquid.
- In a medium saucepan, saute the shallot in butter for 3 minutes, until just softened. Add the contents of the tenderloin bag as well as the verjus, minus the tenderloin. Reduce for 6 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly. Just before service, add the tenderloin, which should be in pieces. Stir to heat through, and serve over pasta, such as sunchoke gnocchi.