Noisettes de Porc aux Pruneaux is an elegant, uncomplicated dish from the Portland (Oregon) Junior League’s 1974 cookbook, No Regrets. English speakers can easily deduce “Pork” and “Prunes” from the title. The word Noisettes literally means hazelnuts, but in this context Noisettes de Porc translates roughly as “pork medallions”. The recipe seems to have roots in the Touraine region of France, renowned both for its wine and lush plum orchards. A quick google search uncovers dozens of variants for this recipe. There is a remarkably similar version published in Anne Willan’s Regional French Cooking, a full seven years after the Portland Junior League’s book.
While individual recipes vary, the key elements of Noisettes de Porc aux Pruneaux are as follows. Prunes are cooked in white wine. Pork medallions are quickly pan fried, then simmered in the prunes’ cooking liquid until tender. The pork liquids and all the delicious brown bits are mixed with cream and prunes until thickened, and then drizzled over top of the pork medallions. Some recipes have very strong opinions on what sort of wine to use – Vouvray seems to be a popular choice – but any dry white wine will do fine. I used dealcoholized Chardonnay and it was still delicious (no one in our house drinks alcohol, and dealcoholized wine freezes well). Variants may include anything from Dijon mustard to peppercorns to warm spices in the sauce, but the end result is an invariably rich, sweet, and handsomely colored cream sauce.
The original recipe called for pork tenderloin, which I didn’t think was fatty enough to remain tender over a forty-minute simmer. This is not the fault of the recipe’s author; domestic pork is considerably leaner than it was when the recipe was published, and I’ve had enough tough pork tenderloin to last a lifetime. I opted instead for two fattier cuts: a streaky boneless pork roast with a thick, fatty lip, as well as a rolled pork belly “roast”. Both worked well. The pork belly roast was much more tender but also much more cumbersome – it requires an entirely different preparation. The recipe I’ve given below assumes you are using pork roast, and hews more closely to the original.
This was a big hit with the family and ridiculously easy to make. It requires a little bit of advance planning and ninety minutes of cooking but there’s very little active time. Noisettes de Porc aux Pruneaux demands a starch that can soak up the delicious sauce and a bitter vegetable to balance the richness. I served this with simple brown-rice-cooked-in-stock and roasted broccolini. Next time around I will probably serve it with mashed potatoes and asparagus or green beans. And maybe make a double batch of the sauce and drink it.
No Regrets is not especially rare or expensive, and can still be found occasionally on Amazon. The Junior League of Portland does not appear to have published a cookbook since the late 90s, but they are still active in the community supporting education and working to eliminate violence against women.
- Soak prunes in white wine in a non-reactive bowl, covered, overnight in the refrigerator.
- When you're ready to cook, transfer the prunes and wine to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer (uncovered) for 10-20 minutes until prunes are soft. Drain liquid and reserve, and set prunes aside.
- Slice pork medallions about 1½ inches thick. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and dredge lightly in flour (shaking off excess).
- Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, pan fry pork medallions 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown, working in batches if needed. Pour off fat and gently wipe out skillet, getting rid of excess flour but taking care not to dislodge the tasty brown bits at the bottom of the skillet.
- With skillet still at medium-high heat add butter, stock, and reserved cooking liquid. Whisk until well combined and allow mixture to come to a boil. Add medallions back to skillet - in a single layer if possible. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes until pork is tender.
- About 15 minutes before the pork is done, turn on the oven to 275° F. When pork is finished cooking remove to a large casserole dish and cover. Place in the warm oven until ready to serve.
- Add cream to the stock remaining in the skillet. Bring to a slow boil, whisking constantly and dredging up any tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the sauce is thickened stir in prunes, currant jelly, and lemon juice. Continue whisking until jelly is dissolved and prunes are heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste if needed (you probably won't have to).
- To serve, place pork on the plate first. Use a slotted spoon to place a few prunes on the side, then drizzle liberally with the delicious sauce.