This was, by far, the very best recipe I've come up with so far. The most important reason is because it's delicious. Although it has three parts, it's incredibly simple. It also sounds pretty impressive. To make my Pancetta-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Swiss Chard and Cannellini Beans, you'll need the following.....
For the Pork
- 1 pork tenderloin
- 1 small package pancetta -- I like Volpi because it's local and the package sizes are perfect for this type of thing. You could also use bacon, but I prefer the air-cured flavor and pliant texture of pancetta
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbs. soy sauce
- 4 tbs. brown sugar
- cayenne pepper
- kosher salt
- black pepper
For the Swiss Chard
- 1 bunch swiss chard
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbs. olive oil
For the Cannellini Beans
- 1 can (12 oz.) cannellini or other medium-sized, soft white beans
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Okay, let's start with the pork. You'll want to marinate this for 3 to 4 hours, so plan accordingly. My marinade is made with apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and 2 tbs. brown sugar.
I combine all of these in a Ziploc freezer bag, squeeze out the air, and stick in the fridge. I think I marinated this one for about 3 and a half hours, but anything less than 6 is fine. After that, the vinegar will start to "cook" the pork, making the outside dark and unpleasantly chewy.
Yargh, let's set sail for Pork Island!
While your pork is marinating, you can prep your swiss chard and beans. Swiss chard is what makes this recipe impressive because so few people are used to eating it. A leafy, spinach-like vegetable, swiss chard also comes with brightly colored stalks that are not only tasty to eat, but they're so beautiful on the plate.
To cook swiss chard, you'll just need the very basic ingredients of olive oil, garlic, and lemon. Crushed red pepper flakes are optional, but in this recipe, I'm using them in the beans.
To start, cut the stems off of your swiss chard. They're tougher and will need to cook a little longer than the leaves. Cut the stems into 1/2 inch pieces and set them aside.
Next, chop your leaves. It's okay to keep the upper stems attached, because as long as you chop them well, they'll be mostly separated from the tender leaves, anyway. Set the leaves aside. I placed the separate bags of the stems and leaves in the fridge to use later.
Next, prep your beans. Like I mentioned in the ingredients list, any medium-sized, soft white beans will do. There's nothing wrong with canned beans. I prefer them because I don't have time to soak. Loosely drain the beans and place them in a bowl along with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 3 cloves of minced garlic, and 1 tsp. of red chili flakes.
Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator. It's important to marinate the beans just like you're marinating the pork. Beans soak up a lot of flavor, and the garlicky, lemony heat will be a perfect addition to the swiss chard later.
Wait for 3 to 4 hours. Watch the Food Network Recipe Challenge and laugh at the people who worked really hard only to end up with an appetizer at TGI Friday's.
Once you've waited patiently, pre-heat your oven to 360 degrees.
Remove your pork from the marinade (SAVE the marinade!) and pat it dry. This is so your dry rub ingredients -- brown sugar, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, black pepper -- will adhere to the pork while it cooks.
Once you've thoroughly rubbed your pork with the dry rub, wrap it with your pancetta. I do this on top of a wire rack sprayed with Pam (great stuff, don't let anybody tell you any different) inside of a foil-covered pan. After you've wrapped it, spoon a little of the marinade on top. This will allow the pancetta to caramelize with some of the marinade's flavor.
After your pork tenderloin has been cooking for about 35 to 40 minutes (depending on your oven, mine was built in 1955), start on your swiss chard.
Remember how I said that the stems need more cooking time? Heat 2 tbs. of olive oil over Medium High. Once the olive oil is hot, add your stems. This only takes about 10 minutes, but stir them frequently to avoid charring.
After 10 minutes over Medium High, reduce heat to Medium and add your marinated beans. They will have released some garlic, lemon, and chili-infused liquid by this point, which will slow the cooking of the stems.
After only a couple of minutes (always stirring!), add your leaves. Stir a few times to coat the leaves with the olive oil and liquid from the beans. Much like spinach, swiss chard will reduce significantly in size as it cooks.
Cook swiss chard for about 5-7 minutes. Add a pinch of kosher salt and the juice from 1/2 a lemon towards the end to add flavor and further tenderize the stems and leaves.
After you remove the swiss chard from the heat, remove pork tenderloin from the oven. The pancetta should be brown and caramelized in some places but not all.
To see if it's done, slice the tenderloin at its thickest point. It should be juicy and slightly pink in the middle.
YES, pork can be served medium! Today's pork is raised to be far leaner than it was in the days when cooking it less than well was a health risk. Medium pork is tender, moist, incredibly flavorful, and almost silky in texture.
If your pork is done, slice it width-wise and serve on a bed of swiss chard. Top with pancetta. Although I'm sure you could enjoy wine with this, the beans are going to be pretty fiery. I recommend a bracing, hoppy beer like New Belgium's Springboard Ale.