Just over a month ago, you probably swore that you never wanted to cook another big dinner party again. The holiday season just has that ability to use up every last drop of our best intentions as hosts and hostesses.
But, now that the exhaustion is fading into memory, it’s time to start entertaining again. And I’ve got a simple solution to help you ease yourself back into the role of gracious dinner-party entertainer.
The trick is creating a main course that is absolutely elegant and yet takes just moments to prepare. And the only piece of kitchen equipment you need to make that happen is a good sauté pan.
A sauté pan with a heavy bottom that holds heat well and distributes it evenly is the perfect tool for searing meat, poultry or seafood. And when you start with an already tender cut, in pieces thin enough to cook through in minutes, you can have your main course ready in seemingly no time at all. As a bonus, the act of searing on the bottom of the sauté pan a golden glaze of caramelized juices that you can deglaze with flavorful liquid will produce a quick, delicious pan sauce your guests might think you’d been simmering for hours.
A fine example of this approach is my recipe for Sautéed Pork Medallions with Port Wine Sauce and Spinach. It’s actually based on a recipe I’ve been making for more than three decades, originally featuring medallions of veal. But good veal can be costly, and some people have ethical objections to the meat (although you can certainly make the recipe using the now widely available humanely raised veal, to which I myself am committed).
Pork, however, has made a transition in recent years from the homespun meat it used to be to a leaner, more elegant option, with cuts like loin and tenderloin having not only less fat but also a tender, juicy texture, mild and sweet flavor, and pale color comparable to veal. So using pork loin, cut into the neat little rounds known descriptively as medallions, produces a main dish that not only looks elegant and tastes delicious but also costs far less than the veal version.
As part of the recipe, I include quickly wilted spinach, which adds a vegetable side that also serves to soak up the sauce. Serve some rice pilaf or potatoes along with it, start with a simple salad, end with a store-bought sorbet topped with fresh berries, and you have an incredibly elegant dinner party ready to serve with almost no effort at all.
You and your guests will have a wonderful time — and, since it was so easy, you’ll all probably want to entertain again very soon!
SAUTÉED PORK MEDALLIONS IN PORT WINE SAUCE WITH SPINACH
3 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 12 equal medallions
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon safflower oil or canola oil
1 cup port
1/2 cup organic chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 pounds organic baby spinach, thoroughly rinsed, water left
clinging to the leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Season the pork medallions lightly but evenly on both sides with salt and pepper.
In a sauté pan large enough to hold half of the medallions, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to flow freely when the skillet is tilted slightly, add half of the medallions and sauté them until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer them to a warm platter or tray and cover with foil to keep them warm while you sauté the remaining medallions in the same way, removing them to the foil-covered platter after browning.
Add the port to the pan, and raise the heat to high. Bring the port to a boil while stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Continue boiling until the port has reduced by about half its volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and cream and continue boiling until the mixture has reduced to a light coating consistency, about 5 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stir the baby spinach leaves just until they have wilted, about 2 minutes Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain off excess liquid.
When the sauce has reached the desired consistency, remove the pan from the heat. A small piece at a time, whisk in the butter. Whisk in lemon juice to taste, along with more salt and pepper if needed.
Arrange the wilted spinach in beds on 6 heated serving plates. Place 2 pork medallions leaning on the side of each bed of spinach. Spoon the sauce over and around the medallions. Serve immediately.