What’s for dinner: Pork Tenderloin with Swiss Chard and Polenta

Pork Tenderloin with Swiss Chard and Polenta. (Source: Everyday Food)

A new week, a new roster of dishes from Everyday Food magazine’s “Grocery Bag” feature, which provides you with an E-Z shopping list that contains everything you’ll need for five days’ worth of meals. (And, for me, leftovers for lunch the next day.)

But this week I noticed something … not right about the plan. The dinner they scheduled for Friday involves asparagus, which is best at its freshest, not after five days in the crisper. So I rejiggered the order of the dishes so I can enjoy the vegetable when it’s closer to peak flavor.

(However, since that recipe involves the leftover polenta from tonight’s dish, it still had to wait until tomorrow. In the interim, it’s stored standing upright in a shallow dish of water, sort of like you would do with flowers. If you don’t have the vertical space, I guess wrapping it in a damp paper towel and then a plastic bag would be the second-best option.)

Cost of ingredients: $17.53. I already had olive oil, sherry vinegar, butter, and salt and pepper.

Substitutions: Since instant polenta was the only thing available at my grocery store, I opted for that. And a package of four pork chops instead of a tenderloin (which, again, costs twice as much). That way I didn’t bother with hacking it to “medallion”-sized bits. And red chard instead of Swiss chard — they may technically be the same thing, just different formulations.

As easy as they said? The instant polenta threw me for a loop — the box instructions say it only requires water, whereas the Everyday Food recipe calls for milk and chicken broth.  How different can ground-up corn be in its formulations? In the end, I opted to use the milk and broth, since I had bought them. (It also took three minutes, instead of the 20-odd specified in the recipe.) A note: Do not warm up this liquid in a covered pot, because suddenly it will decide “YES, I AM READY” and whoosh! Suddenly you’ve got milky foam all over your cooktop.

Also, I wish that the lovely folks at EF had mentioned at the ingredients phase that they expect you to add the chopped-up stems of the chard at one point, and then the leaves later on. Most of us would probably dump them all into one bowl at the food prep stage … and then stand there a little bit later, cursing while we try to pick out all the stems while leaving the leaves in the bowl.

How’d THAT go over? I had been a little concerned about the sheer bulk of onion I was tossing into the pan, but after they reduced down, there was no strong ONION! taste to be suffered through. My polenta ended up on the starchy, quickly-congealing side, which is probably thanks to using the instant kind, so it did need the kick that the greens and onions provided. (I also skipped the butter, since I figured I had already used a lot of milk.

Since they don’t list the recipe on the website yet, here’s the drill: Season the chops with course salt and ground pepper, fry in a little olive oil for 4-6 minutes each side, then remove to a plate and cover with foil. Cook onions and chard stems in same pan with a little oil until soft, then add leaves, some sherry vinegar, about a cup of chicken broth and the pork with juices, then cook some more until almost all liquid is evaporated. (Meanwhile, cook polenta in another pot. If you’re not planning on cooking Dish #2 later, you don’t have to save 4 cups like I did.)

Would I make it again? Sure. It’s one of those dishes I’m also excited about taking to work tomorrow as leftovers.

WHAT SAM WORE: 03-1-10
The sweater: Merino wool vest from Gap,
another hand-me-down from my friend and neighbor James.
The shirt: Long-sleeved button-up shirt by Ben Sherman, from Macy’s.
I bought this with the “thank you” gift card I got for hosting a men’s
fashion event for them at the Biltmore Fashion Park store back in the Trib days.
The pants: Jeans by Ben Sherman, another hand-me-down from James.
The shoes: Leather slip-ons (oh my god, are these some form of clog?)
by Bacco Bucci, from Last Chance.
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3 responses to “What’s for dinner: Pork Tenderloin with Swiss Chard and Polenta

  1. Sammit! I wish I’d read your Pork/Swiss Chard blog before making it a couple of weeks ago. Chops would’ve been much better (too much meat otherwise – yes, I really typed that!). Since I’d never cooked w/chard, of course I bought the wrong greens (I was at my local awesome Asian Market but their signage isn’t that great). I think I bought chicory! The whole thing would have been a complete disaster if I didn’t find cooking the slow cook polenta so miraculous. Used the milk/broth and stirred forever – the process was the miracle (from sand to solid) but eating it was weird. The gelatinous – as you said – non-taste didn’t improve when I baked the triangles a couple of days later. I also used a white onion which was very ONION! and then I didn’t really enjoy the leftovers. Sounds like you had a better experience…looking forward to your Bon Apetit attempt!

    • My polenta wedges also were awful; the only way I found them salvageable was by dredging ’em through the mushroom sauce to soak up the flavor. (Sort of like you’d have to do with tofu!) I had been wondering if it would have made a difference if I used real polenta instead of instant, but it sounds like you had the same experience with the “real stuff.” It’s funny that you said “triangles” – at first I was just going to cut mine into rectangles but I looked at the photo and said to myself, “well, look what they did there” and tried to emulate it, as well. Too bad the shape didn’t influence the flavor.

  2. ok, so I’ve read a couple of your posts and you’ve totally inspired me to get in the kitchen more often. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t really know how to cook, so lately I’ve been trying my hand at a few recipes. I think you commented on the Thai Chicken Curry I tweeted about the other week… which ended up being a hit at a dinner party I attended. This past week, I attempted a beef stew which my dogs loved. I, on the other hand, thought the recipe needed some more work…or more wine. Anyway, I checked out the EF site and I might try one of those recipes next. Wish me luck!

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