Summer is fading fast in the rearview mirror and fall is nipping at our noses in the mornings. Before plunging headlong into fall feasting, let’s give the bounty of summer its last hurrah. Perfectly seared pork tenderloin medallions, sautéed radish quarters and a delightfully refreshing barley, spinach and grape salad manage this task brilliantly.
Unlike their typical use in relish trays and salads, relegated to the culinary sidelines and dark corners, radishes get their moment in the sun, quite literally. An entire side devoted to their peppery and pungent bite. The root that bites back. When choosing your radishes, look for medium sized bunches with round radishes of similar sizes. Not only does it look better on the plate, they’ll cook evenly and you won’t end up with soft bites and hard.
Not many recipes call for cooked radishes, but we’re sure glad this one does. Radishes retain enough resistance to add a charming crunch in each bite. Given the extreme tenderness of pounded pork tenderloin, the dichotomy each bite presents balances perfectly. Not to be outdone, the barley salad adds its own level of sweet and sour, gentle resistance and bursts of juicy flavor to compliment the creamy shallot sauce ladled over the medallions.
It’s easy to beat the pork to a pulp, so go gentle with the slices. Each trimmed and cleaned pork tenderloin should give you close to 6 pieces—4, 1½-inch thick medallions, the tail piece and the butt. The medallions are pounded on their cut ends while the tail and the butt end are pounded on their sides. Everything needs to be pounded to the same thickness, about half an inch. Since the tail tapers, only the thick end needs to be flattened. The butt end, with its three barely connected muscles can withstand a gentle beating to pound it into shape. As with any meat, placing the pieces in a plastic bag, or between two sheets of plastic wrap helps keep everything together and clean.
It’s easy to overlook prep work in the salad. It’s a cold salad for heaven’s sake, how much work can it take? Just a bit more than none at all. Because the spinach is served fresh, it’s important to thoroughly clean and stem the spinach. Who wants to bite into the woody, stringy stem in the middle of their meal. Folding the spinach leaf on itself and grasping the stem and pulling it down toward the tip of the spinach leaf ensure that not only is the woody stem gone, but so are the inedible and undigestible strings that run up the stem. Lastly, a rough chop on the spinach ensures that it’s a manageable size for eating. Your family (or guests) shouldn’t be cutting anything in a salad into bite-sized pieces; that’s your job.
If Indian Summer is enticing you to enjoy one last summer-inspired meal, this should certainly satisfy that craving.
Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Radishes and Barley Salad
- 1 package pork tenderloin (two muscles) trimmed and cleaned
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cups radishes, quartered
- 2-3 large shallots, minced finely
- ½ cup dry Madeira
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
Cut the tapered end (tail) off the tenderloin to a length of about 3 inches. Cut 1½ inch thick slices (about 4) leaving about 2 inches of the butt end. Place the tail piece and butt piece on their sides between plastic. Using a meat mallet, pound the pieces to a half inch thick. Place the medallions on their cut side between plastic and carefully pound them to a half inch thick. Season each piece with coarse ground salt and black pepper.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the pork medallions, in batches if necessary, for 3-4 minutes a side until they have a bit of brown. Remove the pork to a platter and keep warm. Add the rest of the oil to the pan and sauté the radishes until they begin to soften, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shallots and allow them to soften, about 2-3 minutes more. Pour the Madeira over the vegetables and allow it to reduce almost completely. Spoon the radishes into a serving dish and keep warm. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan to make a cream sauce, stirring frequently until the sauce simmers.
Divide the barley salad and radishes among 4 plates. Lay two medallions slightly offset on the salad and ladle the cream sauce on the pork. Serve immediately.
Barley, Spinach and Grape Salad
- 1 cup white grape juice
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup quick cooking medium barley
- ¼ teaspoon finely ground kosher salt
- 1 cup grapes, halved
- 8 ounces fresh spinach, cleaned, stemmed and chopped
Boil the juice, water, barley and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 14-16 minutes, until all or most of the liquid is absorbed. Rinse the barley under cold water and drain it in a fine mesh sieve. Mix the barley, grapes and spinach in a large bowl. Whisk together ⅓ cup white grape juice, 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon honey and a pinch of finely ground kosher salt. Stir into the barley mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.