It’s the day of the party and I have harvested the figs from our backyard. I’m worried. They’re quite firm, so I’m worried that they aren’t ripe enough. Also, they’re green, so they’re automatically not as sweet as black, Mission figs. I’m terrified of putting these figs into the sauce I’m cooking for the pork and ruining the whole dish. The doorbell is ringing and I still haven’t decided whether or not to go forward with this plan of cooking Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Vinegar and Fig Sauce.
The guests have arrived and they are eyeing the chopped figs suspiciously. We all agree that they don’t smell as enticing as we would like, but they encourage me to press on. I’ve got pizza in the freezer in case of emergency. I set about peeling and slicing about half a dozen of the green figs and I set them aside.
Next, on a separate cutting board, I slice about three pounds of pork tenderloin into 3/4 inch slices and sautée the slices in a large frying pan at a medium-high heat. I’ve chosen the largest pan I have so that I can sautée all of the pork tenderloin at once. So far so good.
I remove them from the pan and place the slices on a cookie sheet. They go into an oven that has been preheated to 200˚F. Then I add a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter to the pan and sautée the shallots until they soften.
Once they’ve softened, I add the balsamic vinegar (about a quarter cup) and let it simmer until almost all of it has evaporated. This is what they mean by “balsamic reduction.” It really intensifies the flavor.
After the balsamic vinegar has evaporated, there are scrumptious brown bits of shallot that I scrape from the sides of the pan before adding the chicken stock. The chicken stock, balsamic vinegar and shallots are all simmering now until reduced by half. I am nearing the point of no return where I will have to add the figs.
I take the plunge and add the figs. As soon as they go into the pan I decide everything is going to be okay. Simmering the figs in these great juices will certainly soften them up and they should acquire the flavors around them. We’ll have to wait and see if I’m right. In goes the cream.
Adding the whipping cream makes what was just a little something simmering on the stove into a real sauce. I’m thinking now that I need to add whipping cream to everything I’m cooking. The balsamic vinegar smells great and the whipping cream makes it nice and rich. Despite my fears about the figs, the dish is starting to seem promising. Just a few minutes left.
After the sauce has thickened considerably, I add the chopped Italian parsley to give it the fresh kick any creamy sauce needs. I’m ready to assemble the plate with the pork tenderloin, the sauce and the roasted red potatoes I’ve had cooking in the oven.
We are all surprised by how tasty it is. The figs add a little zing to the sauce, but don’t dominate it. My backyard figs have a slight cabbagey flavor, kind of like having brusseles sprouts in the dish. The sweetness of the balsamic vinegar is a nice counterpoint to the nutty, slightly bitter flavor of my figs. I wonder what “real” figs taste like, but then I think, “is there anything more real than food you grew and picked yourself?”