A long time ago, in a land far away (roughly 30 years and 650 miles), there lived a little redheaded girl who did not like her vegetables. She didn’t like lettuce. She didn’t like broccoli. And she only liked carrots when they were cooked for hours in her mother’s beef stew.
Now, that little girl didn’t like not liking vegetables. It bothered her that others were enjoying something that she could not. She felt left out…like she was missing some big secret. She especially felt left out in the fall, when her parents and sisters happily ate their roasted acorn squash. They really, really liked the green and golden treat. But try as she might, the little redhead really, really did not.
Years passed. Bit by bit, the little redhead came to love her broccoli and cauliflower and kale with a passion that was quite indecent. The girl who once turned up her nose at anything green (save, oddly enough for lima beans), now thought that roasted brussels sprouts were comfort food. She grew bushels of tomatoes, chard, peppers, and more in her garden. And her vegetable drawers in her fridge were always stocked to overflowing. She was, decidedly, an odd duck.
By the time the redheaded girl had grown into a woman, there were only three vegetables she did not like: beets, spaghetti squash, and acorn squash. She knew there was nothing to be done about the beets or the spaghetti squash. They were horrid things, surely not meant for human consumption. But acorn squash…that gave her pause. Perhaps the problem wasn’t the squash, but the way her mother had prepared it.
So, with olive oil and herbs in hand, she set out to find a way to make the autumnal food palatable. And palatable it became…once she covered it with fresh rosemary, extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and roasted it (with a clove of garlic nestled in its center), for a long, long time.
In fact, it became so palatable, that she couldn’t stop eating it. Every meal for weeks needed to include her new favorite vegetable. She found it paired especially well with pork tenderloin, well marinated in fig jam and fancy mustard, then topped with fried cinnamon apples. Together, the two dishes made a lovely, elegant, and super simple meal, perfect for a blustery October day.
She hopes you think so too.
Pork Tenderloin in Fig Sauce with Fried Apples and Roasted Acorn Squash
Prep Time: 10 minutes (active); 3 hours (inactive)
Cook Time: One hour
- Pork tenderloin, 1.5 pounds
- Fig Preserves (or similar rich flavored jam), 12 ounce jar
- Brown or dijon mustard, 2 heaping Tablespoons
- Balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons
- Kosher salt
- Apples, 2, peeled and sliced
- Butter, 2 Tablespoons
- Cinnamon, .5 teaspoon
- Raw Sugar, 1 teaspoon
Roasted Acorn Squash
- Acorn Squash, seeded and cut into quarters
- Garlic, 4 cloves, peeled
- Fresh Rosemary, 8 stems worth, chopped
- Kosher Salt, .5 teaspoon
- Olive Oil, 4-6 Tablespoons
- Mix together jam, mustard, vinegar. Set aside.
- Liberally salt and pepper the pork. Place it in a large, gallon-sized ziplock plastic bag. Pour marinade into the bag; seal; and refrigerate for 3 hours.
- A little over an hour before you want to eat, preheat your oven to 400.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange squash. Place one large clove of garlic in the center of each. Drizzle generously with oil, salt, and rosemary. Bake for one hour.
- 30 minutes before you want to eat, line another baking sheet with foil. Arrange tenderloin, pouring marinade over the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a thermometer reads 140 degrees. Brush repeatedly with marinade during cooking process.
- In the meantime, melt butter in a small skillet. Add apples, sugar, and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat until caramelized. Set aside.
- When the meat is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Slice pork tenderloin, topping with sliced apples and any remaining sauce, and serve with the best acorn squash you will ever eat.
- I used fig jam because I had some on hand, but blackberry, plum, boysenberry, or even apple jam will do nicely too. Really, whatever you can find or have around.
- Likewise, I used some delicious homemade brown mustard, given to me by my friend Dave, the maker of all good things. But, since you’re all not lucky enough to be Dave’s friend, a good, strong brown mustard will do.
- Don’t skip the salting and peppering of the tenderloin or the marinating. Pork tenderloin needs a lot of help to be flavorful. Give it the help it needs.
- Regarding apples: I used Granny Smith because it was what I had, but don’t feel beholden to Granny. Just use what’s around.
- Do not overcook the pork. I repeat, do not overcook the pork. As soon as that thermometer approaches 140, whisk it out of the oven. It will continue to cook for a few more minutes while it rests.