Monday, August 04, 2008

Pounded Pig and Tasty Tomatoes

Hope exists! A few tomatoes are coming through, just not the mountains of fruit I expected. However, since my pout-y whining last week, I've been bringing two fruit home a day from the plot, which of course, is better than nothing. And, they're wonderful, home-grown, sweet, complex amazing fruit too, which is better than many things. So, I hereby announce my "end-of-tomato-complaints-for-2008." I have tomatoes, and therefore, I am happy.

We all know there are quite a few ways of eating homegrown tomatoes raw: chopped up in salsa, tossed in a salad with basil and balsamic, sliced with mozzarella and basil for caprese, even eaten over the sink alone because they are just so good. But during the summer, although I can as many tomatoes as I am able to for winter cooking, I rarely cook with the fresh tomatoes I bring in. Because they are so tasty raw, I usually don't mess with them.

This approach, of course, is short-sighted. It defies the central tenant of good cooking: good ingredients make good food. Yesterday, as I was considering what to do with the pork tenderloin paillards I planned to make (after Terry B.'s post about a month ago about paillards, they've been on my mind), I realized that I had to make the dish a celebration of summer tomatoes. I had great tomatoes, which meant I had the making of a great dish. A great dish it turned out to be.

Pork Paillards with Summer Tomato Sauce
The sweetness of summer tomatoes is enriched with vermouth, chili, and thyme in this dish, and given a firm foundation with onions and plenty of garlic. Since it is slightly soupy, ECG and I enjoyed it with smashed baby potatoes that soaked up the tasty sauce. It would also be great with crusty bread, pasta, or polenta. This dish was perfect for two with plenty of leftovers for a lunch.

You will need:
1 medium-sized pork tenderloin
1 small onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
1/2 cup dry vermouth
a couple leafy sprigs of thyme
1 dried red chili, wiped clean
2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
salt to taste

To make the dish:
Rinse the tenderloin and cut it into 1 1/4" lengths. Cover your cutting board with a piece of parchment paper, place a round of pork flat on the board, cover it with another piece of parchment paper, and, using your favorite blunt instrument, pound away at the meat. Keep hitting it until the pork piece is flattened out evenly and just over a 1/4" thick. Place the pounded piece on a plate set aside from your work area, and continue with the rest of the pork chunks. For me, this is a very fun process and a great way to take out any frustrations I may be experiencing.

In a heavy pan (I used my cast-iron skillet) on medium-high, melt a dollop of butter and swirl it around. Once the butter is hot and sizzly, place three paillards in the pan, sprinkle lightly with salt, and pan-fry until the bottom is browning in raised spots and edges—just a couple of minutes. Flip each paillard over, and repeat the process. Once the paillards are lightly browned all over, place them on a clean plate and set them aside. Cook the rest of the pork pieces the same way, adding little bits of butter if necessary.

After browning the pork and removing it from the pan, add another little chunk of butter and the onions to the pan. Stir them around as they cook, coating them with the butter and bits and pieces of meat-juice stuck in the pan. After they have begun to become translucent and a little brown around the edges, add the chopped garlic. Stir for just a bit, 30 seconds or so, then add the vermouth. Using a spatula, make sure to scrape up the flavorful bits of browned butter and meat that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let the vermouth cook down so much it is syrupy and glaze-like, about a quarter of the volume it had been.

Add the tomatoes, chili, and thyme branches, stirring to mix the ingredients thoroughly. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the mixture bubble and cook down. Once the tomatoes have softened and become juicy, stir the ingredients around again and taste. It should not taste at all watery, but instead, intensely tomatoey. If it is still a little too juicy, let it cook a few minutes more. Once you are satisfied with the consistency and flavor of the sauce, slide the pork paillards and the juice that has collected under them on the plate, into the pan. Gently move everything around so that the meat-juice mixes evenly with the tomato sauce and each paillard gets doused with the sauce. You want to meld flavors here, reheating the meat, and even cooking it a little bit in the sauce so that you can make sure it is no longer pink in the middle. It should take just a couple minutes to do this. Finally, taste the sauce for salt and season as necessary.

Serve and enjoy whatever tomato bounty you could get your hands on.


Anonymous said...

The problem I always have with cooking my heirloom tomatoes is I almost never grow more than one plant of each variety, because I always want to plant more varieties than I have space for. This means I don't usually have more than one or two of the same tomato at any one time, except for some of the cherries. Since the flavors of the different varieties are usually so different, I'm always afraid of cooking them together, for fear of ending up with heirloom slop.

This year I'm going to try drying them for the first time, and maybe that will solve this problem. If you think of any other ways of overcoming the problem of having so many different varieties for cooking, I'd be interested in hearing.

Wendy said...

Oh, this sounds wonderful. Pork is probably the meat that I eat the least of. Love it though and will be trying this out soon.

Unknown said...

Yummy recipe! I can't wait to try it!

Anonymous said...

Yay! I'm so happy you got your 'maters! I only got three, and one of them went bad in all the travels we've been making this summer. Le sigh... At least I know someone that has good tomato karma, and at least I have access to tons of talented farmers. All is well, all is well. Lovely recipe too.

Anonymous said...

Yay for your tomatoes - even if they only come two at a time. The tomatoes in the recipe sound like they'd yield rich flavors.

Christina said...

Patrick: I've had really great luck drying the smaller varieties. I keep them in doubled plastic bags in the freezer, and during the winter, I throw handfuls of them into soups and stews. As for cooking with the big heirlooms, well, I can them all together when I do get to can my harvests, and although I no longer get to enjoy all the individual flavors when I do that, I do get wonderful, very tomato-y tomatoes to use during the fall and winter. And when I cook with them during the summer, I don't worry about separating out varieties either; no matter what mix you use, it always tastes better than using store-bought cardboard tomatoes.

Wendy: I hope you enjoy it!

Bobbi: Let me know how it works for you.

Ann: Having good farmers' markets nearby does make up (at least a little bit) for some of the disappointments in the gardening front, doesn't it?

Nikkipolani: Hooray indeed!

Have a great day, everyone!