LOMBATA DI MAIALE AL FORNO (ITALY)
This delicious Italian-style pork recipe was created specically for a combination of earthy flavors intended to play off the California Pinot Noirs that were the subject of an OnLine Tasting on the CompuServe Wine Forum.
I started with an old favorite, a Marcella Hazan preparation of pork with juniper berries and rosemary -- already a Pinot-friendly combo -- and then further heightened its marriage with the grape by adding a combination of fresh and wild mushrooms. Served with a puree of potatoes and finocchio on the side and crusty bread, it was a great success. It's not a 60-minute-gourmet item, I'm afraid, but it's the kind of recipe that calls for periodic flurries of activity separated by longer periods of free time while it cooks.
Chop fine enough fresh rosemary to make about 1 tablespoon (or use 1 teaspoon of crumbled dried rosemary), and blend it with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and about 25 juniper berries, mashed with a mortar and pestle. Mix all this together and pat it all over 1 or 2 pork tenderloins (we used 1 1/2 pounds of meat to serve three).
Preheat the oven to 450F, and put a black-iron dutch oven in the hot oven with 2 tablespoon of butter just until the butter melts. Put the pork in, turn it once or twice to coat with the melted butter, and roast, un-covered, for 45 minutes, turning the meat once after the first 30 minutes.
While the meat is roasting, soak a handful of dried morels and dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of hot water until they're soft, about 20 minutes. Drain through paper towels in a strainer, reserving the strained soaking water. Rinse the mushrooms to ensure all grit and sand is removed, then chop them coarsely. Slice about a dozen large white button mushrooms, and sautee them in a little olive oil with salt and pepper to taste until they start to wilt. Stir in the reconstituted dried mushrooms, add the reserved soaking water, and cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup. (This treatment infuses the wild-mushroom flavor from the soaking water back into the bland white mushrooms and really heightens their taste; it's a great trick.) Turn off heat and set aside.
When the meat has roasted for 45 minutes, take it out of the oven; pour off any excess fat that's accumulated, and pour in 8 ounces of tomato sauce (I use the fresh-frozen bounty of last summer's tomato garden, but commercial canned or boxed tomato sauce will do). Add the mushrooms. Stir, cover, and continue cooking on the stove top over very low heat for another hour, turning the meat on occasion and adding a little water if necessary if it starts to get dry. It probably won't.
Slice the tenderloin into medallions, arrange them on a serving plate, and pour the sauce over, garnishing with a couple of rosemary sprigs.
As I said, the combination of earthy pork and mushroom flavors, juniper and rosemary made a spectacularly good marriage with fruity Central Coast Pinot Noir.