There are few scenes more breathtaking than the understated, muted panorama of a forest of trees painted heavy with ice and snow after a particularly treacherous storm. My drive to work begins with such a view, and though my foot is cautious on the pedal and my hands secured firmly on the wheel as I traverse the questionable roadways, my focus drifts in scattered moments to these blanched branches lying low against the banks. It is the one peaceful reprieve after a substantial snowfall that I never remember until I witness again — and so I never look forward to it, but always find myself smiling and more relaxed when I round that one bend of road and take in the line of trees that flank my either side.
I find it all too easy to propel my thoughts into the warm future of humidity and summer rain, welcome breezes instead of scathing gusts, fresh-picked blueberries, ice cream that doesn’t leave an inner chill, bathing suits and the smell of sunscreen clinging to my pores. I find myself responding wittily to other’s comments of being ready for Spring, with my own quips of being ready to skip straight to Summer. Mountains of snow have encroached upon the sidewalks, the parking spaces, exit ramps, more snow than anyone knows what to do with, and power lines down and heat compromised and everyone squeezing their eyes shut and praying for the Spring equinox.
But when Spring does awaken, when its hibernation ends, I will have to wait three full seasons before my morning commute will be dusted with the peaceful brigade of snow-laden trees, and I’m trying to remind myself of that. Amidst the cold and the inconvenience, the actual dangers of the storms and the trivial sludge caked into my entryway floor, there is beauty and purpose, something to latch onto. We must find these somethings, these raisons d’etre. We must try not to live for the future because it will, in time, arrive, but we can never get this moment back…and there are bits and pieces of this moment that are worth discovering and holding onto, at least for an instant, at least for now.
And it’s more than just the calming image of untouched snow. It’s the way a hot shower can feel like a warm embrace after an hour of shoveling. It’s the smell of soup bubbling away on the stove all day. It’s discovering the sweetness of persimmons, the tart surprise of fresh cranberries, and the smokey depth of a well-roasted brussels sprout. It’s feeling warmer beneath your favorite blanket with your best friend or lover, than you have ever remembered feeling under the sun’s own rays.
I have recipes for ice cream, of muesli cool from the fridge, of roasted habanero salsa, and there is a part of me that wants to talk endlessly about them. It’s the same part that jokingly announces to anyone who will listen that I’d like to skip straight to stiflingly hot Summer, who wears skirts to work because the hassle of boots and gloves and scarves after several snow storms in a row is too much. This part of me resides in a different galaxy of my being from the part that marvels in the trees on the side of the highway, who is trying to remember that there is something to be unearthed in every moment, something worth discovering.
And so we arrive at this recipe, this winter recipe, this tenderest of pork tenderloins bathed in a warm and luxurious cloak of cranberries and maple syrup. It is meant to be eaten in a heated dining room as a gust of wind agitates the snow pile outside the window. It is meant to be eaten now, not on March 20th, or June 21st. So make this today, or tomorrow, or next week, but soon, while you still have the chance. Because, like the snow-lined trees on my way to work, this recipe is one that you may not necessarily miss in 2 months when the weather has warmed and the ice has melted, but it’s one that as soon as you taste it, will immediately be transfixed and uninterested, for just that brief instant, in being anywhere but right where you are.
Savory-sweet and as tender as this cut of meat implies.
- 1 cup whole cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons walnut oil, divided
- 1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 red onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Combine the water and cranberries in a saucepan over medium, medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, allowing most of the water to cook off and the berries to soften, approximately 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit and place half of the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
- Season the pork with pepper before searing in the hot pan, 3 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to the hot oven and roast for 20 minutes.
- Let the tenderloin sit in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a cutting board and tent with foil to rest another 10-15 minutes before slicing against the grain.
- Meanwhile, return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining walnut oil along with the shallot and rosemary, cooking until the onion has softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 additional minute.
- Add the broth to the pan and scrape any bits that have stuck to the bottom and sides. Stir in the cranberry sauce, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.
- Serve the sliced tenderloin with the cranberry sauce (and a hearty serving of roasted green beans! Optional but highly recommended.)
Nutrition Information: 222 calories. 9g fat (1g saturated). 74mg cholesterol. 96mg sodium. 9g carbohydrates (2g fiber, 6g sugar). 24g protein.
Source, adapted: Confections of a Foodie Bride