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Dec 7, 2010
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Wine With . . . Pork Medallions With Wine-Braised Apples

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas

While pork lends itself naturally to pairing with fruit, the partnership is not always as wine-friendly as we might hope.  Sometimes the fruit is too acidic, sometimes too sweet, and sometimes it simply dominates the flavors of both the wine and the meat (fresh pork is, after all, more delicate than beef or lamb).  Over the years we’ve enjoyed pork garnished with peaches, with mango chutney, or with fresh grapes, but there’s no doubt that pork and apples are the most traditional duo--just think of how frequently applesauce is served with pork chops.  But we were looking for something with a little more zip that the standard applesauce, which tends to be too sweet and/or too blah with wine.  It occurred to us that if we braised sliced apples in wine spiked with traditional pork partners such as mustard and rosemary, we’d have a dish well-suited to a variety of different wine styles. 

Well, the outcome wasn’t exactly as we’d imagined.  The first time we tried making it the wine-soaked apples were delicious with the pork but much too tart to be truly agreeable with a glass of wine.  After experimenting with various additions to sweeten up the apples, from honey to dried apricots, we finally settled on a handful of raisins, which did indeed, result in just the right ratio of sweet to tart.  We also added chicken stock to the wine to bring a little more richness to the mix. Overall, we are quite pleased with the resulting dish, although it is not exactly the slam-dunk with wine we’d anticipated.  While we did come up with a handful of wines that meshed beautifully with the flavors of the pork and apple combo, we also sampled a surprising number of wines that fell short of being a perfect match for the dish.

We hope you’ll try this recipe out and get back to us if you discover a particular wine that seems just right to you with it.  We’d love to share your ideas with other readers of Wine Review Online.

PORK MEDALLIONS WITH WINE-BRAISED APPLES

(serves 2)

FOR THE APPLES

2 apples peeled and cut in slices about ¼ inch thick

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

Freshly ground black pepper or dried red pepper flakes

1/3 cup raisins

Place the apples in a small skillet.  Whisk together the wine, stock, mustard, rosemary and garlic, and pour the mixture over the apples.  Add the bay leaf and pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer, stirring once or twice, for about 10 minutes.  Add the raisins and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender and the liquid has been reduced to only a spoonful or two (this should take about 20 to 30 minutes depending on the type of apples used).  If making ahead of time, reheat the apples gently before serving.

FOR THE PORK

1 pork tenderloin, about 1 pound

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon butter (preferably unsalted)

1 tablespoon olive oil or other vegetable oil such as canola or grapeseed

1 small onion or 1 shallot, minced

Cut the pork into 6 to 8 pieces of approximately equal thickness.  Season the slices with salt and pepper. (If you have time, place the seasoned meat in the refrigerator for anywhere from one to 24 hours before cooking it).  Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter and oil.  When hot, add the pieces of pork in a single layer without crowding.  Brown the meat for two to three minutes on each side.  When the meat is nicely browned, stir in the onions or shallot, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.  Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the meat is done (ideally it should be lightly pink in the center).

Divide the warm apples between two plates.  Arrange the pork medallions on top of the apples and spoon whatever juices have collected in the skillet over them.  Serve at once.

 t   t   t

We tried thirteen different wines with this pork and apple dish, and quite frankly many of them did not work at all well.  Many tasted too tart or astringent, or simply lost focus when having to compete with the sweet/ tart flavors of the apples and the more pungent meaty flavors in the pork.  It quickly became clear that this dish, while undoubtedly delicious, calls for some careful thinking when choosing a wine to partner with it.

Two things seem especially important to think about.  First, the dish does not much like truly bone-dry wines.  Second, being so fruity itself, it loves a complementary fruity wine.  Neither of these mean that you need to choose a sweet wine (though an off dry Riesling was delicious with it), just that the ripe taste of fruit needs to be prominent in whatever wine you select.  The dish works equally well with reds and whites, though too much tannin can be off-putting, and an overly delicate white probably will be overwhelmed by it.  We have five specific wines to recommend, but these two general pairing principles are probably even more important to keep in mind.

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Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

 

 

 

Davis Bynum, Russian River Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2008

 

 

  $35

 

Very bright and fresh, full of succulent cherry flavor, with hints of sweet spice in the finish, this youthful Pinot performed much better than did another, older and drier example of the varietal that we tried.  Pinot Noir is a perhaps obvious red wine to try with this dish.  When choosing the specific wine, though, be sure to pick one with this sort of vivacious personality.

  

 

Dr. Loosen, Mosel (Germany) Riesling Kabinett “Erdener Treppchen” 2009

(Imported by Loosen Bros. USA)

  $26

 

 

We feared that this off-dry white would be too light or delicate to work well with this fairly full-flavored dish.  It wasn’t.  The sweetness, which certainly enhanced the match, also gave the wine depth, allowing it to hold its own with even the earthier aspects of the dish.  Tasting of crisp apples with a mineral-laden undertone, it made for an almost ideal match.

 

 

Peter Lehmann, Barossa (Australia) “Layers Red Wine” 2008

(Imported by the Hess Collection)

 

 

$16

 

An unorthodox blend of five different grapes, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Carignane, Mourvedre, and Grenache, this is a soft, supple, and very easy-going red wine.  Its bright fruit flavors and silky texture were what made it match well with the apples and pork.

 

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2009

 

 

 

$19

This wine worked surprisingly well.  It shows the bright citrus character typical of many Sauvignons, but finishes on a slightly sweet note.  That may sound odd, but its lingering flavors are precisely what made the wine succeed in this pairing.

 

 

 


 

 

Seven Hills, Oregon (USA) Pinot Gris 2009

 

$16

 

Marked by flavors the echo ripe pears and sweet apples, this wine proved very complementary.  Nothing about it stood out or seemed especially notable, but that is in no sense a criticism, as it meshed seamlessly with the many different flavors in the dish.