Pork Tenderloin with Braised Fennel and Tomato Butter Sauce

Pork Tenderloin with Braised Fennel and Tomato Butter Sauce

Our friend, Violet, came to Atlanta for a visit last weekend. I always love taking out-of-town guests on my weekly grocery shopping trip to the DeKalb Farmers Market. Located in Decatur, Georgia, this sprawling market covers 140,000 square feet and offers the freshest and most varied array of produce, cheeses, meats, seafood, spices, and any other hard-to-find item that might be on your shopping list.

The second you enter the doors, you know you’re walking into an international experience. Flags from almost every country in the world hang from the ceiling. The employees, most of whom hail from other countries, wear name tags that indicate which language they speak. Strolling though the  produce department, you’ll find all the usual fruits and vegetables, but you’ll also see many items used in cuisines from around the world. The shoppers, covering the gamut of race and ethnicity, highlight the multicultural flavor of the market.

We arrived at the market early on Saturday afternoon, the worst possible time to go. As we drove into the packed parking lot, I immediately began taking deep, cleansing breaths effecting a zen attitude in preparation for the mass chaos that awaited us inside. The layout of the market does not promote an organized flow of traffic and maneuvering a cart through the thousands of shoppers presents a real challenge, thus the zen state of mind.

We began our shopping experience in the no-frills, self-serve cafeteria, where they offer delicious hot and cold fare. A wide-ranging salad bar offers diners a healthy, light meal, while the hot bar tempts you with curried cauliflower, mac and cheese, sauteed squash, collard greens, lasagna, fried chicken, and vegetable samosas. After lunch we fought our way through the market, starting in the meat and dairy areas. I love watching our first-timer guests’ eyes widen as they witness the expanse of glass counters displaying every form of beast and fowl: pork, beef, lamb, bison, chicken, rabbit, quail, and goose.

After picking up some pork tenderloin for dinner, we moved through the seafood department, eyeing every kind of ocean critter you can imagine.  In the bread department, the aroma of just-out-of-the-oven baked goods wafted through the air. The market provides a real workout for your olfactory system, and the next smell we encountered was that of freshly ground coffee. Just beyond the coffee, Jim picked up the scent of the dessert counter and leapt into line for an almond cookie.

We whittled away our shopping list in the produce department and with all the ingredients for the night’s dinner in my cart, we made our way to the checkout. We accomplished our mission and made it through the chaos unscathed.

Dinner on Saturday night was a go-to meal that I’ve made many times. I love fennel and this dish features braised fennel with roasted pork tenderloin in a pool of tomato butter sauce. The subtle tarragon flavor of the tomato butter ties back to the fennel and the sauce really brings this dish together.

Glasses of wine, catching up with an old friend, and a delicious dinner made for a very special Saturday night.

Cooking Notes

There are three things in this recipe that must be ready and warm at the same time. In terms of timing, here’s what I would suggest. Start with the fennel. Once it’s covered and braising, sear the pork and get it in the oven. Next, prepare the sauce through step 2 and remove from heat. While the pork is out of the oven and resting, return the sauce to the burner, reheat, and finish in the food processor. Keep the fennel over low heat until ready to assemble the dish.

Pork Tenderloin with Braised Fennel and Tomato Butter Sauce

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4 servings

Pork Tenderloin with Braised Fennel and Tomato Butter Sauce


(Adapted from a recipe in Cuisine Magazine)

For the pork:

2 1-pound pork tenderloins

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

For the fennel:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 fennel bulbs, quartered

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the sauce:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup chopped shallots

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3 cups seeded and chopped Roma tomatoes

1/2 cup white wine

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

Fennel fronds (for garnish)


For the pork:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Season pork tenderloins with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Brown tenderloins for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

3. Transfer pork to a baking sheet and place in oven. Roast for about 15 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

For the fennel:

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place fennel in skillet, cut side down. Sear for 3 to 4 minutes until browned. Turn fennel and brown other cut side for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn browned sides up and add wine, chicken stock, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper.

2. Bring liquids to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until fennel is easily pierced with a fork. Remove from heat.

For the sauce:

1. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Transfer shallots and garlic to skillet and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine, salt, and pepper and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove from heat, transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add tarragon and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Process until smooth.

To assemble:

Spoon sauce onto 4 dinner plates. Place 2 fennel quarters on each plate and top with 2 to 3 slices of pork tenderloin. Garnish with fennel fronds. Serve immediately

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Bill Harris

I grew up in small town Mississippi eating traditional southern fare.A lifelong foodie, I started cooking and experimenting with food at a very young age. I started Southern Boy Dishes as a creative outlet and a way to share my love of food.

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Speak Your Mind

  1. says

    That sounds like a wonderful market! And you got the ingredients for what is definitely a wonderful dish. I love braised fennel (it’s a veggie that doesn’t get enough love). And paired with pork tenderloin? Wonderful! Really nice — thanks.

  2. says

    I would be in heaven at a good farmers market (smile). The fennel in this recipe caught my eye. Fennel is really very unaderappreciated-it is delicate, crisp with just a hint of anise. It is a beautiful vegetable. You used it with creativity in this dish. Love it.

    I have fennel growing in the garden this season. It is very easy to grow. Unfortunately, the crazy winter that hit the southeast damaged my fennel. I am hoping for a recovery so I can harvest it, and do beautiful things like you did in this recipe.


  3. says

    How long is one allowed to stay at a gorgeous plate of food? I may break the record for the longest stare. Your pork is cooked perfectly, the fennel – YUM, and that sauce! You outdid yourself …. Again! :)

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