Have you ever had a plan go completely sideways on you? Well that’s what happened to me the other night. I had planned on making this relatively healthy pork tenderloin dish with ratatouille… simple, flavorful, healthy, yet filling. Yeah, then I remembered that I had bacon in the fridge, it was all downhill from there.
Below is the recipe and wine pairings… Enjoy the read, enjoy the recipe, and may you feel as gluttonous as I!
1lb Pork Tenderloin
1/4lb Bacon, raw, chopped
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Garlic Powder
1/2c Arborio Rice
2c Chicken Stock, warmed
1/4lb Bacon, raw, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1/4c Scallion, chopped
1/2tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/4c Grated Parmesan Cheese
1c Chicken Stock
6 Plum Tomatoes, diced
2 Clove Garlic, chopped
1/2 Spanish Onion, sliced
1/4c Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/4c Fresh Basil, chopped
1/2tsp Ground Black Pepper
Ok, let’s cut right to the chase, I can read your mind already. “Hey Derek, how are we cooking without butter or oil???” Welllllll, since you asked, we’re using all rendered bacon fat.
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That’s right, you heard me, bacon fat… rendered bacon fat.
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So right now you’re cursing at the monitor, thinking I’m nuts and trying to send you to an early grave… but stop and think about it for a second. Do you honestly believe that rendered bacon fat is that much worse for you than butter or cooking oils!?
You want the truth? Be careful because maybe you can’t handle the truth.
Here it is… Lard and rendered bacon fat are actually BETTER FOR YOU than a vast majority of cooking oils and butter. They have less saturated fat, zero trans fat, and the monounsaturated fat (good fat) is HIGHER. Oh boy, I just flipped your world around didn’t I?!? Does the sky suddenly seem more blue, the thrill of a kiss much sweeter, and the sound of sizzling bacon more orgasmic?
Thought so… And yes, I said bacon and orgasmic in the same sentence. Who doesn’t? Duh.
Now let’s cook.
First thing’s first, you need to cook off some bacon. Heat a sauté pan at medium-high and add your first 1/4lb of chopped raw bacon. Cook until crispy, turn off the heat and then remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Put the bacon in a food processor and grind to a dust. If you don’t have a food processor then put the bacon in a bag and crush by hand. Set the ground bacon aside.
If you prefer your pork slightly pink in the center, like I do, heat your oven to 350F. If you are the type that gets freaked out by pink pork then heat your oven to 375F.
Coat your pork tenderloin with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Heat the sauté pan with the rendered bacon fat on high, once hot place your tenderloin in the pan. Sear until a good crust forms on the bottom, flip and repeat. You want to sear all four sides of the pork to get that beautiful crust that will keep the juices in the tenderloin. Set aside and allow to rest at room temperature. Do not dump the fat remaining from the sauté pan! If you didn’t use a sauté pan that you can put in the oven for finishing, then just keep what you used set aside, you’ll need that again at the end.
In a small sauce pot bring two cups of chicken stock to a simmer then reduce your heat to low.
Heat a medium sauce pot at medium-high and add your other 1/4lb of chopped raw bacon. Cook until slightly crisp. Drain off half of the rendered bacon fat into a second medium sauce pot that you’ll be using shortly for the sauce. In the pot with the bacon add the Arborio rice, chopped garlic and seasoning. Cook for two minutes on medium-high to lightly brown the garlic and slightly toast the rice. Ladle 1/2c of warmed chicken stock into the risotto and reduce the heat to medium-low, stir frequently. As the risotto absorbs the liquids and gets close to dry, add another 1/2c of warmed stock, still stirring frequently. Repeat until finished, approximately 30 minutes. The risotto should be lightly creamy, but not loose, soft, but with a bit of crunch in the center.
Once you’ve got the risotto going it’s time to work on the sauce. Heat the second medium sauce pot that you had poured some of the rendered bacon fat into at medium-high, add your onion, garlic and salt, cook until they begin to sweat. Add the fresh diced tomatoes, chicken stock, ground pepper and parika, reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer uncovered, stirring periodically.
When you have been cooking the risotto for roughly ten minutes, put your tenderloin in the oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest at room temperature for 3 minutes .
Once you’ve pulled the pork from the oven add the chopped scallion and parmesan cheese to the risotto, continue to stir frequently. At the same time add the chopped parsley and basil to the sauce. Cook both for an additional 3 minutes until the pork is rested.
Evenly spread your ground bacon on a cutting board or plate.
Before slicing the pork, lightly brush it with the rendered bacon fat from the sauté pan then roll it in the ground bacon to crust.
Now it’s just a matter of plating. I prefer the sauce on the bottom, topped with the pork, and the risotto on the side. Enoy!
So let’s talk wine pairings. This dish is pretty versatile when it comes to grape juice… I personally had a Sangiovese based Toscana IGT, but you could easily accompany this dish with a Nebbiolo from Piemonte, a Syrah based Rhone, a higher quality Shiraz from Australia, or even a smoky Pinot Noir from California or Oregon. The main profiles you’re looking for in the wine to get a good pairing would be a subtle smoky/toasted oak character, pepper notes, some slightly earthy rustic qualities, and even a touch of wild game. Listed below is what I had, as well as a couple of others I would recommend.
Felsina “Fontalloro” IGT, Toscana, IT – I know here in the United States the big names from Toscana are producers like Ruffino and Banfi, but let me fill you in on a little secret… You know about them because they spend millions on marketing, not because the wines are really that good. In Toscana, if you ask a wine savvy local to name the top producers in the region, Ruffino and Banfi wouldn’t even be in the conversation. But you know who would be? FELSINA! The Poggiali family has been producing some of Toscana’s top wines for decades, and while many producers are changing their wine practices to accommodate the “New World Palate”, Felsina has stayed true to the roots of the region. Fontalloro is their flagship wine, and is considered one of Toscana’s top IGT’s. It’s made from 100% Sangiovese, but cannot qualify as a Chianti Classico Riserva as two of the three vineyards that Felsina utilizes for the bottling fall outside of the Classico DOCG boundaries. On the palate you’ll find notes of sweet cherry, dried herbs, pipe tobacco, crushed black pepper and subtle toasted oak, all framed by silky smooth tannins giving the wine structure and backbone. This is what I enjoyed with dinner, the 2009 vintage specifically. While the wine was gorgeous, it was still a baby and needed at least another 5-8 years in bottle to truly shine. Regardless of the vintage, decant for two hours before serving. (Retail  $50-60, older vintages can sell anywhere from $50-300. I know for some that is a serious dose of sticker shock, but have no fear, you could also go with their entry level Chianti Classico at $21-26)
Sineann Wy’east Vineyards Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge, OR – Sineann is one of my absolute favorite Oregon producers, and has been for the last four years or so. The winery was originally established in 1998 as a collaboration between Peter Rosback and David O’Reilly. A number of years after it’s creation the two Irish gents amicably parted ways, and David went on to fame with O’Reilly Wines and Owen Roe. Peter pushed on with Sineann, and the result were truly distinctive, world class wines sourced from some of the top growers throughout Oregon. His Wy’east Pinot Noir was sourced from the Wy’east Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge, just across the Columbia River from Washington State. On the palate you’ll find notes of tart cherry and raspberry, black pepper, subtle roasted nuts and a hint of smoked bacon, beautifully balanced by pronounced acidity up front, and mild chewy tannins in the finish. In the glass it is moderately transparent and at first you’d think I’m crazy to recommend something that looks so light to pair with this dish, but trust me, it’s spot on. If I had a bottle at home this is likely what I would have cracked open! Not too many cases are produced of the Wy’east, maybe 400 if I remember correctly, so you might run into some difficulty getting your hands on this one in your local shop. The good news is you can order directly from Sineann at http://www.sineann.com/. (Retail $34-40)
Cantalupo “Agamium” Colline Novaresi, Piemonte, IT – Cantalupo was established by the Arluno family back in 1969, but they had been producing wine from their vineyards in around the village of Ghemme for centuries. The Agamium (which translates to Ghemme in Latin) is their entry level bottling, made from 100% Nebbiolo sourced from the vineyards of Carella, Baraggiola and Valera. Agamium is meant to be friendlier and softer than their higher tiers wines, and should be consumed young. On the palate you’ll find beautiful notes of dark cherry, fresh fig, garden herbs, tobacco and pantry spice with subtle acidity and soft tannins completing the picture. This is truly a pretty wine that is wonderful with food, but could easily be consumed alone. With approximately 2,100 cases produced every vintage this wine isn’t widely distributed, but it can be found in most major markets. (Retail $15-18)
So that’s all folks. My recipe, my witty banter about the virtues of bacon fat, and my wine pairings. I hope you enjoyed the read, and I hope you make the dish and drink the wines! More content will be coming up over the weekend, but in the meantime drink wine and eat bacon. Life is short, enjoy it!