It doesn’t rain often in San Diego, CA, but when it does I like to pretend it’s a cold, dreary, Midwest afternoon. I imagine myself bundled up in front of a fire place, with a book in my lap and cup of tea in my hand. I start craving a warm, comforting one-pot meal. Pork chops, apple sauce, the flavors of home.

I elevated my desire for comfort food by using pork tenderloin, and adding anise-flavored fennel to offset the sweetness of the pork and squash.

Just make sure not to overcook your pork Believe it or not, pork is meant to be eaten medium rare, not well done.

Serves 4


2 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup mild olive oil, plus 1 Tbs
1 Tbs dried thyme
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1 butternut squash, seeded and peeled
1 fennel bulb
1 medium yellow onion
2 Tbs orange juice, cognac, or Grand Marnier
½ cup water or low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper


Trim pork and pat dry. Place in a non-reactive dish with lid (e.g., Tupperware or large Ziploc bag).

Mix apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, 4 cup olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Pour marinade over pork, and massage meat to fully distribute marinade. Close lid and refrigerate for 5 hours, turning meat over every 30 min to ensure even marinating.

Cube butternut squash into 1” cubes. Cut fennel and onion into 1” wedges, leaving base somewhat intact to hold the wedge together.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Shake excess marinade off pork. Add pork to skillet and brown well on all sides. Remove from skillet.

Add fennel and onion and cook for 3 minutes each side. Add orange juice to pan and deglaze, scraping brown bits from bottom of pan using a wooden spoon. (If using cognac/Grand Marnier, make sure alcohol burns off). Add butternut squash and water, stir gently. Season with salt and pepper.

Nest pork tenderloin back into skillet. Place pan in oven and cook for 20 minutes or until pork reaches internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove pork to plate and let rest so juices reabsorb (do not cut pork yet, or you’ll lose all that juicy deliciousness). Return pan with vegetables to oven and continue cooking 15 more minutes, or until butternut squash is tender.

Slice pork into 1” medallions. Serve with braised vegetables, pouring extra pan sauce over pork.  

*Photo courtesy of Home and Plate

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