Serves: Makes 4 servings
- 12 figs, fresh or dried (see headnote)
- 1 cup dry Marsala
- 1½ pork tenderloins (about 1¼ pounds total)
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
- About ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped shallots
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fig balsamic or regular aged balsamic vinegar
- Thyme sprigs, cut into 1-inch pieces, for garnish
Procedures:Make this dish with fresh figs when they’re in season. Green-skinned figs are the prettiest, as the purple ones tend to tint the sauce a rosy pink. If it isn’t fig season, use either dried Black Mission or the lighter-skinned Calimyrna. For the pan sauce, use an inexpensive dry Marsala, a fortified Italian wine.
Snip the stems from the figs with kitchen scissors. Cut the small figs into halves or the large ones into quarters. Set aside. If using dried figs, place them in a small saucepan with the Marsala and heat gently until warmed. Set aside to soak while preparing the pork cutlets.
Remove the silverskin from the pork tenderloin: Lay the whole tenderloin on a cutting board and trim any excess fat. Locate the silverskin, which is a long, narrow, shiny white membrane that runs along the surface of the meat. With the tip of a thin, sharp knife, make a small cut at the top of the silverskin long enough for you to hold onto the skin with the fingertips of one hand. With the other hand, pull the knife, its blade leaning toward the skin, along the skin and parallel to the meat to separate it from the meat. Discard the skin. Repeat with the half tenderloin. Slice the tenderloins into 12 slices each ¾ inch thick.
Cut 2 sheets of plastic wrap each about 10 inches long. Lay 2 or 3 tenderloin slices on 1 sheet and cover with the second sheet. Gently pound the slices until evenly flattened to between 1⁄8 and ¼ inch thick. Repeat with the remaining slices. When all of the slices have been pounded into cutlets, sprinkle them lightly on both sides with salt and pepper, then sprinkle them on one side only with 1 teaspoon of the chopped thyme. Place the flour on a sheet of plastic wrap, and dip each cutlet in the flour, lightly coating on both sides and shaking off the excess.
Heat a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and oil and heat until the butter foams. Add the pork a few slices at a time and sauté, turning once with tongs, for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Using the tongs, transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining pork slices.
Add the shallots to the pan and sauté over medium-low heat, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until softened. If the dried figs are soaking, strain and reserve the Marsala separately. Add the figs, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, turning them with a spatula as they brown, for about 3 minutes (turn fresh figs gently, as stirring might crush them). Add the Marsala and boil, gently turning the fruit, for about 3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of chopped thyme on top. Taste and add more vinegar, if needed. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Return the pork to the pan and quickly reheat, turning the pork in the sauce.
Arrange the pork slices on a warmed platter and spoon the figs and sauce on top. Garnish with the thyme sprigs and serve at once.