If you’ve ever found yourself at a party, standing over the buffet, shoveling bacon-wrapped dates into your mouth as quickly as you can instead of, you know, being social and whatnot, this recipe is for you. Well, you and me. Seriously, who cares about meeting and greeting when there’s something as good as porky dates to be had?
This recipe takes the flavors of one of our most beloved cocktail snacks and turns it into an entree. I made a sweet and savory jam with dates, onion, and mustard seed, smeared it on a butterflied pork tenderloin and wrapped it all up with strips of pancetta. After roasting, the meat is moist and just a touch rosy in the center, with crisp pancetta serving as the perfect counterpoint to the sweet date filling. It’s just like my favorite party snack but in a meal-sized portion I can enjoy without looking over my shoulder, wondering if I’m going to have to fight someone over the last date.
This is one of those dinners I love because it not only tastes great and looks fancy-ish, it doesn’t require a ton of ingredients or an entire day of cooking. You just need a pork tenderloin, some pancetta, dates, onion, mustard seeds, and a splash of vinegar. Add an oven-proof skillet and 45 minutes and you’ve got your dinner plans covered.
Start by making the jam. We’re going for kind of a sweet, sour, and savory thing here. We’ll sweat a diced onion with a sprinkling of mustard seeds, then add some chopped dates and a splash of cider vinegar and cook it down until we have a thick, sticky paste.
While the jam is working, open up your pork tenderloin and whack it a few times to flatten it out.
Smear the date-onion jam over the meat, roll it up, then wrap with pancetta and secure with kitchen twine.
Brown the roulade on the stovetop then transfer to the oven for a quick roast.
After roasting, pull it out of the pan and tent with foil while you make a simple pan sauce. Just sauté some minced onion with the pan juices, deglaze with a bit of white wine, add a little stock, and whisk in a spoonful of dijon mustard.
Slice the pork and you’re good to go. You’ve got a date-stuffed pork tenderloin, worthy of any date.
- 1 medium Onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp. Mustard Seeds
- 1 c. chopped Dates
- 1 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Pork Tenderloin (mine weighed in at 1.15#), excess fat and silver skin removed
- about ¼# thinly sliced Pancetta or Bacon
- about 1 Tbsp. minced Onion or Shallot
- ¼ c. White Wine
- ¾ c. Chicken Stock
- 1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
- Olive Oil
- In a small saucepan, heat about 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion, mustard seeds, and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions have softened and become translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the dates, vinegar, and ¼ c. of water and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the dates have broken down and you have a thick, slightly chunky, jam. If the pan starts to look too dry, add another Tbsp. or 2 of water. Taste and season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Meanwhile, butterfly the pork tenderloin. Lay the pork on a cutting board and start cutting lengthwise, a ¼-½ in. from the bottom, slowly unrolling the pork as you go. You’ll be left with wide, flat piece of pork. Pound the meat to a uniform thickness, then rub with salt and pepper.
- Spread the pork tenderloin with the date and onion “jam”. With the long side of the pork closest to you, roll the pork over itself to form a fairly tight cylinder. If any of the jam tries to sneak out, just push it back in. Wrap the rolled pork with strips of pancetta (mine unrolled itself and was in strips—you can certainly use round slices and overlap them slightly) and secure with a piece of kitchen twine.
- In a large ovenproof skillet, heat about 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork tenderloin and brown 1-2 minutes per side until the pancetta is golden, about 6 minutes total. Transfer to the oven and roast until the internal temperature is between 135°-140° (it will continue to rise as it rests), 15-18 minutes. Again, if any of the filling tries to escape, push it back in, otherwise it will burn once the pan goes into the oven. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and tent with foil while you make the sauce.
- Place the pan you used to roast the pork on the stovetop and add oil, as needed, so you have a thin coating of fat in the bottom of the pan (if there’s too much fat already, skip this and instead drain some off). Remember this pan has been in a very hot oven and the handle is hot—I only remind you because I always seem to forget!! Add the minced onion and sauté until translucent, about 1 minute, scraping up any brown bits crusted to the bottom of the pan as you go. Add the wine, bring to a boil and allow to reduce slightly. Now add the stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a saucy consistency, 3-5 minutes. Whisk in the Dijon mustard, taste, and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove the string from the pork and cut crosswise. Drizzle the sauce over the top or pass at the table.
Plus, a few more pork recipes you might enjoy: