Savory pork dishes and tart fruit toppings have been a culinary staple since the invention of culinary staples. And none fill that role more completely than fresh, plump blueberries. Their subtle tartness and deep blue/purple color with cooking not only provide the fruit flavor for this dish, but they also give it an exciting and unusual visual appeal. The lighter meat is beautifully enhanced by the dark purple sauce.
Let’s not ignore the other component of our reduction: the port. Tawny port provides not only the essential color we want to achieve, but also the best flavor for this dish. Ruby port, being the younger family member, tends to have a sweeter and fruitier flavor than its stately cousin, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But this is fall cooking, and fall dishes. We’ll save the ruby port for spring and summer fare.
As such, we’ll complete this meal with a roasted sweet potato purée. Instead of dissolving out the copious sugars in the potatoes, and then pouring them down the drain, as what happens when boiling sweet potatoes, roasting them allows their sugars to caramelize and stay in the potato as a natural sweetener. We have graphic proof of this process since more sugar caramelizes than the potato can keep hold of. Sweet, sticky sugars bubble out of the root ends of these New World potatoes and caramelize on the pan while they roast. Placing the potatoes on a non-stick baking sheet, or a pan covered in non-stick aluminum foil will keep your oven clean and your smoke detector silent.
Large or small, all your sweet potatoes should be the same diameter so that they roast in the same amount of time. Allow the potatoes a few minutes to steam after you take them out of the oven and the skins will offer no resistance. Unless you have fireproof hands, or nerve damage, we recommend wearing a clean pair of dishwashing gloves to allow you handle the potatoes while they are still piping hot.
The pork and the reduction are cooked in the same pan which gives us the added flavor of the maillard reaction. We’ll be using butterflied tenderloin cuts. While it’s important not to overcook the pork, it’s also important that it be turned only once after it has achieved a nice color. Higher heat is necessary here, but so is a watchful eye. Our cuts will be roughly half an inch thick, and carryover heat from external pressure will continue to cook the interior of the pork after you have removed it from the pan. What you are certain will be rare, continues to cook until the centers are barely pink—pork perfection.
The blueberry sauce should simmer for several minutes, long enough for the blueberries to completely soften and the sauce to thicken. Adding the balsamic at the end ensures the subtle flavors in the vinegar aren’t cooked to bitterness.
Summer gives way to fall in this sweet and savory meal.
Pork Tenderloin with Blueberries and Port Reduction
Blueberry Port Reduction
- 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
- 2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
- 1 cup beef broth
- ¾ cup tawny port
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons butter
Clean 3-4 medium sweet potatoes and place them on a non-stick baking pan or a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Do NOT pierce their skins. Roast the potatoes at 350°F for an hour and ten minutes or until they are tender all the way through. Remove them from the oven and let them sit for 10 minutes to steam. Carefully peel the potatoes. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter and ½ teaspoon each of finely ground kosher salt and black pepper to the potatoes. Mash until they are smooth. Keep warm.
Clean the fat, tendons and silverskin from two pork tenderloins. Cut approximately 3 inches of the tail end off. Carefully cut away the two muscles at the butt end of the tenderloin. Cut the remaining piece in half and then butterfly each portion cutting to within a half an inch of the side. Do not cut all the way through. Season all the pieces including the tail and the two muscles with coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of mild vegetable oil. Sear the pork for 3-4 minutes a side, turning only once. Remove the pork and keep it in a warm place. Add another tablespoon of oil and sauté the shallots until they are tender but not browned, about 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the port and reduce the liquid to half. Add the broth, blueberries and sugar and simmer until the blueberries are soft and the liquid has thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the butter and stir until it is melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
On each plate, mound the sweet potatoes on the bottom, ladle the blueberry reduction on top, and set a piece of pork slightly offset on the blueberries.