Monday, May 19, 2014

Apricot-Lavender Pork

                 A while back, we hosted a wine tasting for the Alliance Française, featuring wines and dishes from the South of France.  One of the dishes I made was a pork tenderloin with an apricot-lavender compote.  It was adapted from the cookbook “Chocolate and Zucchini,” from Clotilde Dusoulier.  The book, her first cookbook, was named after her very entertaining blogof the same name, posted in both French and English.
                She presented it as a dessert dish, intended to be served over pound cake, or with crisp cookies.  It is delicious that way, but I wanted a sauce for pork tenderloin, so I made a few changes. It was such a hit that when we hosted our monthly dinner club the next weekend, I made it again.  Once again it was deemed delicious.
                Lavender is a very versatile herb but one rarely used in the US, partly, I’m sure, because it’s not easy to find. The only place I know to buy food-grade lavender in Memphis is at Penzeys, on Poplar near Kirby Parkway.  It is sometimes available in hobby stores to be used in sachets or other crafts. You must not cook with that.
                If you are planning an herb garden for this summer, you might consider adding a couple of lavender plants. For culinary purposes, I like the English lavender variety.  It grows well in full sun, and once established, tolerates drought well.  If the winter isn’t too harsh, it will probably even come back next year.  As a bonus, the plants are very attractive. 
You can use the blossoms fresh or dried in a variety of dishes—it is particularly tasty with lamb or pork. Dried blossoms are lovely finely ground and mixed with sugar to be used in butter cookies, cakes or as a sweetener for lemonade.
I served the pork dish with rice pilaf and asparagus that I roasted after drizzling with herbes de Provence infused olive oil that I got from Bazaar, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop in Collierville’s Carriage Crossing. I used the same oil to coat the pork.  It gave a subtle herbal flavor that was the perfect complement to the apricot sauce.

 Pork with Provençal Apricot-Lavender Compote

 3 1/2 to 4 pounds pork tenderloin
3 tablespoons herbes de Provence olive oil (or plain olive oil)
Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot, finely minced (about a heaping tablespoon)
1 tablespoon each white and dark brown sugar
1 pinch kosher or sea salt
1 pound dried apricots
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
2 teaspoons dried lavender blossoms. 

               With a small sharp knife, remove the silver skin from the pork tenderloins. Rub with oil and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Allow to rest until ready to roast.  Preheat oven to 450o.  About 30 minutes before serving, place the pork on a rack in a baking pan.  Roast for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 145o-150o.  Remove from the oven and let rest, tented with foil, for five minutes before slicing.
                In a deep skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook until starting to get tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the sugar and let it melt, without stirring, for five minutes.  Add the apricots and stir to coat.  Add the salt, wine and water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the apricots are tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the apricots to a bowl. Add the lavender to the liquid and simmer for 5 minutes, until the liquid is slightly reduced.  Return the apricots to the liquid, let simmer another minute or two. 
                To serve, place the pork on warmed plates, top with the apricots and drizzle with the hot liquid. Serve immediately.  Serves 8 to 10. 


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