My choice for an elegant holiday dinner? It's hard to beat a roast, and more often than not my pick is a lean and moist pork tenderloin.
But let's face it, as much as we want to be healthy, there is such a thing as roast that is too lean. A lack of fat often means a lack of flavor. So how to make up this deficit? With plenty of high-flavor ingredients, like prosciutto, fresh herbs, mushrooms and wine.
Prosciutto packs a ton of flavor, and the slight amount of fat it adds is well worth it. As for the herbs, I took a tip from the Italians, who often top off a grilled steak with fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. I tested out several herbs in this recipe, both alone and in combinations. Though I was rooting for fresh sage — a classic match with prosciutto — my tasting panel (the family) overruled me in favor of rosemary and thyme.
Given the roast's Italian inflections, I chose a mushroom Marsala sauce to go with it. Any mushroom will work, from the most affordable white button to the quite pricey shiitake. Whichever you choose, if you need to save time you usually can usually find them sliced and ready to go at the supermarket.
If you don't have Marsala at home, you can swap in Madeira, dry sherry, white vermouth, or even white or red wine. All pair up nicely with mushrooms. And, as ever, if you don't want to use alcohol, leave it out.
In order to stuff these pork roasts, you need to butterfly them. If you've never done this before, don't worry. You simply lay the log-shaped roast on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut in from the side of the roast about halfway down. Cut almost — but not completely — through; leave about 1/2 inch of meat on the far side. You should be able to open the roast like a book.
Next, put plastic wrap on top of the roast and — using either a meat pounder or rolling pin — pound it to an even thickness. You can help to make sure that the meat won't stick to the plastic and tear if you first sprinkle both sides of it with some water. And even if the meat does shred a bit, don't worry. It will knit back together as it cooks.
One of the great things about this recipe is that you can prepare and roll the roast a day ahead. You also can make the mushroom sauce in advance, then warm it up in the saute pan after you've browned the pork roast, which allows you to take advantage of any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan after the roast has left the premises. This isn't just smart time management, it's good cooking; both the roast and the sauce will taste better if you prepare them a day ahead of time. And it'll free you up to prepare the rest of your holiday meal on the big day itself.
DOUBLE PORK ROAST WITH MUSHROOM MARSALA SAUCE
Start to finish: 1 hour
2 pork tenderloin roasts (3/4 to 1 pound each), trimmed of all fat
2 tablespoons packed fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons packed fresh thyme leaves, chopped
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots or onion
1/2 pound mushrooms (cremini, white button, shiitake, oyster or a mix), trimmed and sliced
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Heat the oven to 350 F.
Cut down through each tenderloin lengthwise so that you can open it up like a book, but do not cut all the way through. Sprinkle water on the cutting board under the tenderloin and sprinkle a little water on top of the tenderloin (this will help prevent the meat from tearing when you pound it). Cover the tenderloin with plastic wrap and pound the meat using a meat mallet or rolling pin until it is about 1/2-inch thick.
Sprinkle half the rosemary and thyme leaves all over the inside of each butterflied and pounded pork tenderloin and spread the prosciutto evenly in one layer over the herbs. Beginning with the long end, roll up the tenderloin tightly, tucking in the ends (as you would a burrito). Use kitchen twine to tie the roll in a bundle, tying it every 2 inches.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season the pork lightly on all sides with salt and pepper, then add it to the skillet. Sear until golden brown on all sides. Transfer the pork to a shallow baking pan, then roast on the oven's middle shelf until the center reaches 145 F, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and cover loosely with foil.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the shallots and cook, stirring, until the shallots are golden. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms give off all their liquid and are lightly browned.
Add the Marsala and simmer until almost all of it is reduced. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth and bring back to a boil. In a small bowl whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken broth with the flour. Add the flour mixture to the skillet in a stream while whisking and simmer for 2 minutes. Add any juices that have accumulated from the resting pork to the sauce.
Slice the pork crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Transfer several slices to each of 6 serving plates. Spoon some of the mushroom sauce over each serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 330 calories; 110 calories from fat (33 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 115 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 39 g protein; 770 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."