Last week, I found myself playing hostess to a bevy of breeding ladies. It is not exactly uncommon for me these days to be surrounded by the gestating, but it is rather uncommon for me to host everyone at my home. In fact, I was rather nervous about it. The purpose of the evening was to knit and crochet together and I felt grossly unqualified to direct this important affair. I know little about knitting and crocheting and even less about entertaining pregnant ladies.
In the end, however, the evening was a success. I didn’t do any directing. Instead, I found myself talking a lot with the other women and watching their lovely woolen baby projects develop before my eyes. It felt like a lesson in nesting.
It was a lesson I needed. I don’t really understand what it means to “nest,” but I am doing my best to take some cues from those around me and develop my own system for this seemingly important maternal rite of passage. You won’t find me on some mad cleaning spree, however. I am afraid I cannot relate to such stories. Truth be told, I loathe cleaning house and anticipate hiring a professional to make my dirty house baby worthy come December. On the other hand, I feel I’m doing my best to work on baby projects and transform our home into a happy place to raise a little bun.
I started a baby quilt. It’s been far easier than I anticipated and so much fun.
I am also working on a nursery. I received the most lovely paintings from my talented niece to cheer up the space. Aren’t they just the most gorgeous and fun paintings?
I can’t wait to put them on the walls!
Additionally, I am trying to cook hearty but simple meals that will be good staples during the cold season when I anticipate the possibility of limited mobility. This week, I cooked a pork tenderloin crusted with earthy fennel seeds, which rested on a bed of roasted fennel. It was divine. I’m not sure what took me so long to test out my culinary guns on pork tenderloin, but I’m so glad I did. This meal took little time to prepare and had so few ingredients, but the payoff was extraordinary. The pork tenderloin lives up to its name by being unbelievably tender. It was moist, perfectly roasted, and flavored with the nearly floral taste of sweet anise. And, roasted fennel? There is nothing quite like it. It’s sweet and savory at the same time. Roasted fennel has the consistency of a roasted onion while maintaining a more complex and deep autumnal flavor.
I’m not sure what winter or late Fall will look like for you? Perhaps you will be nesting or just in need of a few nights at home to hunker down in a warm kitchen while cooking up a wonderful and hearty meal for yourself or your loved ones. Either way, give this easy pork tenderloin a shot. I think you will love it.
Fennel Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Fennel Wedges
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pound pork tenderloin
1 tsp (each) sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, reserving fronds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Crush fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle or wrap in a kitchen towel and crush with bottom of a heavy skillet.
Pat pork dry, then sprinkle with crushed fennel seeds and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cut fennel bulbs lengthwise into 1/2-inch wedges.
Heat oil in a 12-inch oven-proof heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown pork on all sides, about 6 minutes total, then transfer to a plate. Sauté garlic and fennel wedges in skillet until fennel is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in broth and butter. Put pork on top of fennel and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145 to 150°F, about 15- 20 minutes.
Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, transfer skillet to stovetop (handle will be hot) and boil, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated. Stir in lemon juice and 1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds. Thinly slice pork and serve over fennel with sauce.
Adapted from Gourmet.