Autumn is the season when I finally get the hang of my life again, when I understand something of the chaos that the good season has left behind. After a tousled summer, I’m patiently collecting what I had lost on the way.
I started baking again with my sourdough. Sooner or later I’ll share the recipe of our weekly bread loaf, full of good seeds and whole flours: but as with all the things I am seriously committed to, that recipe is always missing something, it’s like I can always improve it somehow. So, I make it time after time – tweaking the amount of salt, the percentage of water, the oven temperature -, baking three loaves a week, which disappear in between breakfasts, slathered with butter and jam, and cooking classes, when I serve it as an appetiser with prosciutto and pecorino cheese, and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
We’re getting into the habit of walking daily in the early morning with Noa and Teo, greeting the day and soaking in the crisp shining autumn landscape. But I committed to carve out some time for myself, so I dusted off spider webs from my dark blue swimsuit and goggles and I signed up for a swimming class twice a week, after a 10-year break.
I have never been a real swimmer. At that time, I would attend a class twice a week, mainly focusing on surviving the lesson. Yesterday I went back to the swimming pool with a good dose of anxiety, the same uneasiness I feel every time I face something new.
I’m almost forty, I’m not becoming audacious now.
Even though I seriously suffered the long break, when I finished my 22 lengths I felt a sense of pride blooming inside me. I had made it, despite being 10 years older, despite the extra pounds that weigh me down – which I like to consider a drawback of my job, rather than the result of laziness – and despite that tiredness that is now like a good old friend. How long will it last? I’m sure that an hour of empty head, liquid and rarefied thoughts will be the perfect reward for my commitment.
But let’s get back to food.
We are trying to work on a weekly menu, even if we’re still struggling to adapt it to cooking classes and photo assignments. We have a messy pantry and a freezer full of leftovers: the result of too many cooking classes, of impulsive food shopping and of not enough time to cook just for us. But we’re going to work on this, too, trying to include pantry staples and leftovers in our daily menu.
It is exactly when you set up boundaries – of time and ingredients -, that creativity comes into play.
So, when I started thinking about a seasonal menu with apples, I decided to include a quick meat based main course, something I could easily incorporate in our weekly routine. What about pork tenderloin medallions, I thought.
The pork loin is the dish that gave me confidence in the kitchen, which made me realise the importance of using the right amount of salt, of aromatic herbs, white wine and extra virgin olive oil. I discovered the importance of choosing the right pot, the exact intensity of the heat. It taught me the fundamental role of the resting time to have a perfectly cooked piece of meat.
The pork loin, or as we call it, the arista, is a simple, versatile dish that tastes like a family Sunday. It only requires a little time to rest and a bit of organisation, because the cooking in itself is quite fast, just over half an hour on the stove.
Recently, though, I started looking at pork tenderloin as the ideal solution for when we do not have time to cook.
It is not my favourite cut, I admit it: the pork tenderloin, or filet, is lean, though I like when the meat is marbled with streaks of fat. Remember that a good marbling guarantees more flavour, you should not be afraid of it.
But I had noticed on the butcher’s counter some ready-made pork tenderloin medallions, wrapped in lardo, and more than once I had brought two of them home to quickly sear them on a hot pan for lunch : they require only a few minutes of cooking and no waiting.
Since then, I started buying pork tenderloin for cooking classes, too. I choose from time to time lardo or pancetta to wrap it, before cutting it into medallions. As for the pork loin, I cook the tenderloin directly in the pan: about ten minutes on high heat are enough to perfectly sear the medallions, leaving them juicy and tender, thanks to the fat of lardo or pancetta which melts and gives flavour to the meat.
Pork tenderloin medallions
With the changing of the seasons, you can prepare the pork tenderloin medallions with red grapes, with apples and onions, with some bitter herbs, with artichokes… Since we’re celebrating the apple season, and I promised you a collection of recipes with this seasonal fruit, I cooked my pork tenderloin medallions with apples and red onions.
I thought about this idea and the possible flavour combination, I tried the pork medallions once for lunch, then I tested the recipe two or three times during a cooking classes – my students are unconscious and very satisfied guinea pigs – and finally, here is the recipe.
Pork tenderloin medallions. A few words about the ingredients
I chose lardo di Colonnata, sliced into not too thin slices, to wrap my pork tenderloin, and a few springs of thyme to give an interesting aroma, even if the intense flavour of lardo, which is already rich in herbs, would have been enough for itself.
Do not misunderstand lardo and lard. Lard, which in Italian is strutto, is a cooking fat, creamy almost like butter. It is still used in some traditional recipes as schiacciata alla Fiorentina, a Carnival treat from Florence, in shortcrust for crostate and to fry, especially meat – rabbit is incredibly delicious when fried in lard. It is also used to preserve food, such as fegatelli di maiale, pork liver, very traditional here in Tuscany.
Lardo, instead, is a cured meat.
It is the fat from the back of the pig which is traditionally cured for months in marble basins with salt, pepper and a mixture of herbs and aromatics. You slice it as you would do with prosciutto, and you can drape it on toasted bread, or you can use it to wrap lean meat – but also fish, try shrimps – to cook it and make it moister and more flavourful. Read more about lardo di Colonnata, the most famous lardo from Tuscany, here.
If you can not find lardo, try pancetta instead, or even thinly sliced bacon. I’d avoid prosciutto crudo, or even cooked ham, as they usually do not provide enough fat for the cooking and, moreover, they would dry too much with the heat.
As for the herbs, along with the thyme I tied to the pork, I added also some sage leaves to the apples and onions. Once I also tried with fresh myrtle, and I loved that combination, too. Finally, coming to the apples, I chose a Golden Delicious and I combined it with a red Certaldo onion, which has a sweeter and more delicate taste.
Pork tenderloin medallions with apples and onions
- 800 g (1.76 lb) pork tenderloin
- 120 g (4.23 oz) lardo, about 10 not too thin slices
- extra-virgin olive oil
- a few sprigs of thyme
- some sage leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Golden Delicious apple
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 red onion
- black pepper
- I asked my butcher to give me two pieces of pork tenderloin that had the same thickness, cutting out the final parts, which are usually more slender.
- Wrap the pork tenderloin with lardo, aligned the lardo slices along the length of the tenderloin, until it is completely covered. Add also a few sprigs of thyme. Tie the pork tenderloin with the butcher's twine, leaving about a finger in between each piece of string.
- With a sharp knife, cut between each piece of string, so as to obtain medallions where the lardo is secured by a string.
- Pour two tablespoons of olive oil on the bottom of a large pan, add the sage leaves and the clove of garlic. Heat the olive oil until the garlic starts to sizzle, then add the medallions. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook the medallions about 5 minutes on the first side, until they are well browned.
- Turn the medallions to cook them on the other side, then add the apple and the onion, peeled and cut into thin wedges.
- Cook the medallions on the other side until golden brown. When they are perfectly seared, pour in the white wine and reduce it.
- After two or three minutes, remove the medallions from the pan and set them aside, then finish to cook the apples and the onions, until caramelized.
- Add the medallions back into the pan and serve immediately.
Serve the pork tenderloin medallions with…
I imagine a quick family dinner on a normal Wednesday. The table set in a hurry, the sound of the news on TV in the background competing with the deafening buzz of the kitchen hood. You need quick recipes, but something to celebrate a moment spent together around the dinner table.
Together with the pork tenderloin medallions, a colourful and crunchy salad: add also a few slices of apple to the carrots and cabbage. To finish the dinner, think about baked apples, stuffed with dried fruit and raisins, a cross between a dessert and a hug on the sofa.
- Red cabbage and carrot salad. I can never get tired of this colourful salad: it might be for the warm and crisp seeds which are a nice contrast to the cold cabbage and carrots, or maybe for the yogurt and tahini dressing that – despite being light and healthy – gives me that thrill of exoticism and self-indulgence. Sometimes instead of tahini I’d use a tablespoon of a pretty pungent mustard.
- Baked apples. These apples are filled with raisins and nuts. You can prepare them just before dinner and then leave them in the warm oven. When it comes the moment of serving the dessert, just spoon them in a cup with some of their juice. Eat them still sitting at the table, in between crumbs of bread and idle talks, or curled up on the sofa.
Vote for Juls’ Kitchen for the Saveur Blog Awards 2019
You made it again! Our blog has been shortlisted for the third year in a row for the Saveur Blog Awards, this time as Best Food Culture Blog. This is making us so proud, so excited, so over the moon! It means that through our blog, through the (almost) weekly newsletters, through our Cooking with an Italian Accent podcast and the cooking classes we managed to pass on some of our passion for Italian and Tuscan food culture.
If you want to support us, you can cast your vote here. Remember to vote early and often, as you can vote daily in each category through October 18th.
- I’ve written an article for Dievole, exploring the many uses of chestnuts and chestnut flour in our Tuscan cuisine. You can read it here.
- If you like the idea od using apples in your savoury dishes, here you can find a selection of recipes for you from Bon Appétit.
- Nigel Slater has always tempting recipes. Here you can find two of his recipes with pork and apples.
- Do not mistake pork tenderloin – or filet – and pork loin. Read more about the difference here.