My husband and I share a common fear. We're both terrified of arriving at a dinner party on the wrong night.
We have even waited before going to our hosts' door by driving around the block until we see other guests parking their cars. Never, though, have we worried about people not showing up for a meal at our house, but that's what happened last week.
We had invited three sophomore boys from Amherst College, where my husband teaches, to come for a midweek supper.
Young aspiring cooks, they had volunteered to help me entertain in exchange for some informal culinary instruction, so I invited them to supper to talk about this project.
The day of the dinner I roasted pork tenderloins in cider to serve with apricots, prunes and apples and whipped up mashed potatoes seasoned with creamy goat cheese and caramelized onions. Some broccoli florets were ready to be steamed, and there were cupcakes baked for dessert.
After 15 minutes, I began to worry.
After half an hour I began e-mailing the trio, since I couldn't find their phone numbers, but to no avail.
Finally my husband and I sat down and ate alone.
It turned out that the students were all sick with the flu and had actually left a message, which we had failed to retrieve.
Because there were plenty of leftovers, I learned that pork tenderloins are as delicious when reheated as when taken straight from the oven.
The tenderloins rubbed with crushed rosemary, salt and pepper are browned, then roasted and basted with cider and white wine.
Dried apricots and prunes are cooked with the meat, while fresh apple slices are quickly sauteed in a skillet for a garnish.
A rich dark sauce, made with pan drippings, complements the pork and fruit.
For reheating, I simmered sliced pork and fruit in the pan gravy with great results.
Cider-Roasted Pork Tenderloins With Apricots, Prunes and Apples
Serves 4 to 6
2 1/2 cups cider
1 cup dry white wine
16 large pitted prunes
16 dried apricots
two 1 1/4 -pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of excess fat
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small Granny Smith apple, cored but not peeled
2 teaspoons cornstarch
fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish, optional
Combine cider and wine in a 4-cup or larger measuring cup. Pour 2/3 cup of this mixture into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and heat just until hot. Remove saucepan and add prunes and apricots. Set aside while you prepare the pork.
Fold tail ends of each tenderloin under and secure with string. Mix salt, pepper and rosemary in a small bowl and rub evenly over all surfaces of each tenderloin.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter and the oil in a large, flameproof roasting pan until hot. Add meat and brown on all sides, turning often, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat. With a spoon remove the prunes and apricots from the warm cider mixture and scatter around the tenderloins in the roasting pan. Pour remaining liquid in saucepan over the roasts and the fruit.
Roast pork on center rack of a 350-degree oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 150 degrees, about 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, baste pork and fruit with 1/3 cup of the cider-wine mixture.
While meat is roasting, slice apple into 1/2 -inch-thick wedges. Place 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add apple slices and cook, turning several times, until just barely golden but still firm, only 1 to 2 minutes. (Don't overcook or apples will become mushy.) Remove and set aside at room temperature. Remove pork and fruit from roasting pan and cover loosely with foil.
Place roasting pan over medium high heat and add remaining cider-wine mixture to pan. Stir, scraping the brown bits on the bottom of the pan into the liquid, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk together 2 teaspoons cold water and corn starch in a small bowl, then whisk into sauce. Continue to whisk until sauce thickens slightly. Taste and season with salt, if needed.
Cut pork into 1/2 -inch-thick slices and arrange on a serving platter. Garnish platter with the prunes, apricots and apples and, if desired, with several rosemary bouquets. Drizzle meat with a little sauce and pass remaining sauce separately in a bowl.
Note: If sauce becomes too thick after adding the cornstarch mixture, thin with additional cider and wine, using 2 1/2 parts cider to 1 part wine.