Perking up pork

By JOAN BRUNSKILL AP Food Editor Published:

NEW YORK (AP) All year round, he says, executive chef Dante Boccuzzi of Aureole, Charlie Palmers New York City restaurant, finds occasion to use his repertoire of fruit condiments or compotes to complement dishes he puts on the menus.

He makes the fruit relishes at home, too. With a new baby in the family, he says disarmingly in a recent interview, there are plenty of little baby-food jars to recycle when he makes a big batch of mostarda and puts it up like a preserve.

Boccuzzi likes to serve these fruit condiments with pork tenderloin, as in the recipes he shares here, but thats just the beginning. Compotes like these are very versatile, they go with all kinds of meats, and with cheese, too.

At the moment, Ive developed a dried-fruit mostarda that were pairing with a cheese plate at the restaurant. I vary the fruits I use when Im making mostarda. Sometimes Ill use a combination of two kinds both dried and fresh apricots, for their acidity and their sweetness.

He says he doesnt call these condiments sauces because that suggests something too smooth, and he likes to keep a chunky texture. He suggests just halving the dates in the date and cherry compote to give it a nice color and consistency.

These fruity concoctions are related to relishes or chutneys, Boccuzzi says, although his use of mostarda, the Italian word for such condiments, hints at the Italian heritage and love of Italian food that influence his work. His wife is Italian and they both have family there, although he was born in the United States.

The mostarda idea came when I was living and working in Italy, he recalls. It was New Years Day or Christmas, and we had a family gathering where we had various meat dishes, including a big bollito misto with a lot of different boiled meats. A mostarda was perfect with those rather bland meats.

Although Boccuzzi worked in Italy for a while, he says, My first job was here at Aureole with Charlie Palmer, straight after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America some 15 years ago,

Since then hes worked at other places in Europe before coming back to Aureole, but for all his wider experience, he says, Italy is definitely still the strongest influence on the way I cook.

I like the cleanness and simplicity of Italian food, he says. All year round, I make pastas and other traditional things I pull from family background and other sources there.

Following are three rich, tangy variations of Boccuzzis dried-fruit condiments matched with pork. Two of the recipes, the apricot mostarda and the date and dried cherry compote, are suggested as complements for quickly pan-roasted pork tenderloin. The third variation gives the pork a six-spice rub, and pairs it with port-glazed black Mission figs.

Quick Pork Tenderloin Medallions

One 12-ounce pork tenderloin, cut into six 2-ounce medallions

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat; sear the meat golden-brown on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes each side, and let rest.

Makes 2 servings.

You may serve the pork medallions with this apricot mostarda, which you should make a day or two ahead because the flavors get better as they combine.

Apricot Mostarda

2 cups sugar

11/2 cups water

1/4 cup whole yellow mustard seeds

2 cups dried chopped apricots

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 cup fresh grated horseradish (see note)

Combine sugar and water in a large pot; bring to a boil; add mustard seeds and dried apricots; bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until mixture is reduced to a syrup consistency, about 45 minutes. Whisk in Dijon mustard and horseradish; cool.

Makes at least 4 cups.

Note: Boccuzzi says if you wish to make less you can halve the recipe. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, it keeps for several weeks. Boccuzzi preserves it in jars for longer keeping.

Fresh horseradish root can be found in the produce section. If you cannot find it, you can substitute prepared (but not cream style) horseradish.

To serve: Prepare the pork tenderloins as in previous recipe. Divide between two plates. Top with 2 tablespoons of the Apricot Mostarda.

Makes 2 servings as main dish.

(Remaining mostarda is great as an accompaniment to a cheese plate, or with any grilled or roasted poultry. If you wish, you can mix in some chopped fresh fruit, such as peaches, to lighten its intensity.)

This compote will pair equally tastily with pork medallions.

Date and Dried Cherry Compote

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 small shallot, chopped

1 cup dried halved dates

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/4 cup dried golden raisins

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 cups medium-sweet Riesling wine

1/2 cup ruby port wine

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add shallots and sweat (cook gently) until soft, about 10 minutes. Add dried fruit, vinegar, Riesling and port; cook until all the liquid evaporates, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a food processor; puree until smooth. Return to pan and reheat, to serve warm.

Makes 2 cups.

To serve: While compote is reducing, prepare pork tenderloin as in previous recipe. Set aside. Right before serving, reheat pork quickly over medium-high heat (about 2 minutes).

Divide pork between two plates. Top with 1/4 cup compote per serving.

(Remaining compote will keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for 1 week. The compote goes well with any grilled or roasted pork or poultry. A recipe tester tried it with baked salmon and reported the result was terrific.)

In the following recipe you pan-sear the pork as in the medallion recipe, but first add a rub of spices for additional flavor.

Six Spiced Pork Loin With

Port-Glazed Black Mission Figs

For the Pork:

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

(2 tablespoons of a Chinese five-spice blend can be substituted for the above)

Six 2-ounce medallions, cut from a 12-ounce pork tenderloin

Salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons butter

1/3 cup diced onion

1/2 cup basmati rice

1 teaspoon toasted, crushed coriander seed

1 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons sliced scallions

2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, washed

For the Port-Glazed Figs:

2 tablespoons honey

8 dried black Mission figs, cut in halves

2 lemon-thyme sprigs, plus extra sprigs for garnish

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ruby port wine

Combine ground coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and nutmeg. Season the pork with salt and rub the spice mixture on the meat. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan; sear the meat golden-brown on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side; turn off the heat, set aside and let rest.

Melt butter in a saucepot; add onion and sweat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the basmati rice, coriander seed and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes and remove from heat. Cover with plastic wrap and steep the rice for 15 minutes. Fold in the scallions and baby spinach.

In a small saute pan, caramelize the honey over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; honey will thin out and come to a boil; cook and stir about 2 minutes or until honey has darkened to a dark golden-brown. Add the figs and thyme leaves from 2 sprigs; add port wine, and deglaze, stirring to loosen bits in pan. Add pork medallions to reheat. Cook until sauce has thickened, about 4 minutes.

To serve: Place the rice and baby spinach mixture in the center of the plate. Lay the pork medallions over the rice. Spoon the figs and honey on top of the pork and around the plate. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Makes 2 main-course servings.

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