Wednesday, February 24, 2010

teaching a beginner some easy-to-make dinners - recipe: pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin with sage

Last Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure of teaching a friend how to prepare a few basic yet delicious meals. He’s a recent widower, and because his wife was very accomplished in the kitchen, he simply hadn’t yet learned to cook.

Prior to our lesson, I spent quite some time thinking about what would be appropriate to make. The dishes had to be nutritious and tasty, but with straightforward recipes accessible to a newcomer to the kitchen. No sense in learning complicated dishes that he would never attempt to make without assistance — as I said to him during our lesson, order the intricate meals in a restaurant when somebody else is doing the work! In the end, he would have to feel confident making them.

In all, we prepared five meals and two side dishes.

We started with pasta — we used fresh pasta because it cooks faster and it’s easier to tell when it’s properly cooked. Instead of bottled pasta sauce, we dressed the pasta with a store-bought pesto.

Next was a frittata, which is pretty much just a crustless quiche.

On to meal No. 3 — my dear friend Julie’s brown sugar salmon (go to for the recipe). I almost forgot how delicious and simple this recipe is. Just coat the salmon in a mixture of brown sugar, finely-grated parmesan and pepper, then bake for 12-15 minutes.

Next to last, we prepared flank steak, using a tried-and-true marinade from my former employer, Trish Magwood, of Dish Cooking Studio.

Lastly, we prepared pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin. Credit goes to Chef Merla McMenomy, an instructor at Dish Cooking Studio. Although this recipe is fast and simple, it’s special enough for company, and definitely easy enough for any first time cook to master.

pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin with sage

serves 2-3 (note: you can easily double or triple the recipe)


  • 1 pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 4 slices pancetta bacon
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • 6 fresh sage leaves or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • cracked pepper, to taste


  • Preheat oven to 425º F. Slice apple into about five-eighths of an inch thick slices, and cover the bottom of a casserole dish with the slices.
  • Cover pork tenderloin with pancetta slices. Place pork tenderloin on top of apple slices. Top pork with sage leaves or thyme. Drizzle with olive oil and season with black pepper.
  • Bake in oven for 23 – 30 minutes (uncovered) or until pork is cooked to your liking.

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