Friday, October 21, 2011

Pork tenderloin with butternut squash & hazelnuts

This dish looks like something you might pay a lot of money for in a fancy restaurant, but is actually easy to make at home. Also, because none of the ingredients are particularly expensive, you can treat yourself to a luxury meal without splurging on a night out at a high-end restaurant. Butternut squash makes such a delicious purée that you don't need to add anything to it except salt and pepper, but for a richer autumn flavor you can also add the spices that are typically found in pumpkin pie. I use ground nutmeg, ginger, cloves & cinnamon, but you can use any or all of them depending on what your personal tastes are or what you happen to already have in your pantry.

Start to finish, 45 minutes, serves 2

Ingredients

1 pork tenderloin (600g)
200 cups butternut squash, peeled & roughly chopped
1 bag spinach
1 cup toasted hazelnuts
60g butter
olive oil or vegetable oil
salt & pepper
ground nutmeg, ginger, cloves & cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F
1. Place the butternut squash in a large pot, cover with salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer until the squash is very tender. It should be very easy to crush with the back of a spoon. For a richer tasting purée use just enough water to cover the squash. It's ok if the squash becomes uncovered as it cooks, but be careful to make sure that the water level doesn't get too low or the squash might burn.
2. As the squash simmers, prepare & cook the tenderloin. Trim the fat and connective tissues off the loin and then season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
3. Heat a small amount of oil in a medium sized frying pan and add the tenderloin. Sear on all sides and then place in the oven at 350F for 8 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.


4. Strain the cooked butternut squash and reserve the water. Place the squash in the blender with 30g butter and 125ml (1/2 cup) cooking liquid. Season with salt & pepper. If desired, season with a pinch or two of any or all of these ground spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger.  

 5. Place the spinach in a large frying pan or pot with  30g butter. Add 125ml (1/2 cup) water and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Simmer on the stove until the spinach is cooked tender, about 5 minutes. When cooked, drain the spinach and then transfer to paper towels.


To serve:

1. Divide the spinach on 2 plates.
2. Next to the spinach, spoon some butternut squash on each plate and spread the pile with the back of a spoon.
3. Slice the pork tenderloin and place on top of the spinach.
 4. Garnish the plates with toasted hazelnuts.

Quick, totally unnecessary, just-so-it will-look-pretty tip:

To make perfect little spinach rectangles to lay the pork on, drain each portion of spinach on separate pieces of paper towel. Arrange the spinach into a rectangle and then fold the paper towel around it and press down. Unfold the paper towel and transfer the spinach to the plate.  

Besides making the final plate look prettier, another benefit to this technique is that patting each portion dry in a folded towel will get out all of the water and keep it from leaking on the plate.

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