Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Austria: Austria Part 2 - Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

     We ventured back into Austria for the Columbus Day weekend.  Taking advantage of an early Friday afternoon departure, we were rewarded with very little traffic and arrived in Brand just over five hours later.  Located in the Brandnertal region and close to Bregenz, it is a popular destination for the Swiss.  Buoyed by the strength of the Swiss Franc and its proximity to Zurich (2 hours away), I think that most of the country descended upon this tiny Alpine village.  We were there not only to experience one last hiking weekend but to also investigate its potential as a quick ski destination (although, I suppose that a five hour drive is not very "quick").

     Our apartment, located in the center of town, was clean, efficient and cozy.  The price was right, as well...just 67 Euros a night for a two bedroom apartment with a full kitchen.  Walking to dinner, we were astounded by the number of 4-Star hotels in the village.  From what we knew about the skiing, it didn't seem that the town was capable of supporting so many upscale hotels.  We were disappointed by our dinner that evening at a restaurant recommended by our landlord.  As a result, we decided to grocery shop the next day and make our own dinners.

     The weather on Saturday was beautiful and we took a short drive further up the mountain to the Lunersee Bahn - a gondola, which very quickly would whisk us to the top of the mountain and to the mountaintop lake, the Luner See.  This seemed too easy for us and we quickly decided to ditch all of the well-dressed tourists and hike to the top.  We looked like a ragtag group - sporting old backpacks and wearing ancient and faded hiking clothes.  For those around us, the amount of money that must have been allocated to hiking clothes and gear was staggering.  Yet, most of them did very little hiking - preferring to "look" good.

     The trail to the top took us just over 75 minutes and it was brutal - very few flat spots - straight up the mountain.  Dear Daughter wasn't exactly thrilled with her parents' choice of entertainment.  However, once we were halfway up - her mood improved and when we reached the top, we gathered together for a well-thrown, "High-Five" and a subsequent gasp at the view before us.  I use this word often in these posts, but I cannot think of another one that would give the view was truly SPECTACULAR.  The water was a shade of green that I had not seen before and its contrast with the brilliant blue sky enhanced the picture.  The mountain peaks added texture to the scene.  We enjoyed a well deserved break with beers (for parents) and hot chocolate (for Dear Daughter) at the Douglass Hutte and realized that I had missed a golden opportunity - this was a perfect picnic venue!

Luner See - Brand, Austria

    Of course, if the weather is good one day, then it is probably going to stink the next.  Even though it rained all day Sunday (and I mean - all day), I managed to rally the troops and off we went on a second hike.  The ski gondola in the center of town took us up the mountain and from there we viewed the ski slopes and walked an hour hike to an alpine hut.  Needless to say, we were the only customers but we managed to enjoy big bowls of Gulasch soup before we started our trek down the mountain.  Despite the weather, we managed to have a great time - spending the remainder of the afternoon playing board games and watching Indiana Jones movies in German.

Well, at least they are out of the rain!

     So what were our homemade dinners?  Saturday night, we had Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Pan Fried Potatoes and a fabulous Leo Hillinger red wine (those of you in DC can get Hillinger wines at Total Wine).  More to follow on the Pork Tenderloin.  On Sunday night, we had a Charcuterie Night - various types of Speck (smoked bacon) from the region and local cheeses served with a tasty Gruner Veltliner, an Austrian grape.  Yes, artery-clogging but tasty all the same!

     Monday took us back home but not before we visited Crailsheim, a small town where I lived for three years after graduating from college.  I quickly found my first apartment - a fully furnished, one bedroom that cost me all of $175 per month.  It did bring back memories and it was fun to find it and share it with Dear Daughter.  However, the biggest success of the day was lunching at an Italian restaurant where I had spent many an evening.  After twenty plus years - it still looked the same and I remembered our favorite seats and could almost hear the voices of Julie, Barry, Jamie, Dave, Mark and Jim.  We learned from the waitress that Rocco, the owner in our day had left in 1995.  The food was every bit as good as I remembered it and I enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

     Now I have to mention that during lunch, I bragged a bit about the parties that I had had at my second apartment.  It took us forever to find it and Dear Husband actually made the call directionally.  While it looked the same, I still cannot get over the fact that it is now a home for Senior Citizens! Ouch!

     Saturday is cool is that!  We are taking the 7am train to Paris, hitting a museum and a possible boat tour and finishing up with a visit to our new favorite restaurant there.  We should be back at home on Sunday in time for Dear Daughter to hit the neighborhood.  Again, now how cool is that!

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

     The recipe takes a bit of explaining.  Late last week, I was watching a YouTube video on Eric Ripert, one of my favorite chefs.  At one point, he had a show on PBS called "Avec Eric" but I am not sure if it is still in production.  He had an episode on bacon - savoring lardo in Italy to Virginia style serrano ham in Surry County, VA.  His recipe for Bacon Wrapped Pork tenderloin with Peas Francais is extremely easy and wonderful and I put it on my list of things to make.  After we decided to cook our meals in Brand, I headed to the local supermarket and actually found a Bacon Wrapped Pork tenderloin.  So with very little preparation - all I had to do is take the pork out of the wrapper and place it on a pan - we had Eric's dish.  So, no...I haven't actually made this dish yet.

While the dish calls for an accompaniment of peas, I cannot stand peas so my replacement side would be a risotto.  Their is no sauce with the pork so you want a side that has a bit of juice.  Alternatively, you could make a sauce.  While I served this with a red wine, the preferred choice would be a Gruner Veltliner.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin by Eric Ripert

1 pork tenderloin
Enough slices of bacon to wrap the pork.  You need to get good quality bacon but I do not think that it needs to be thickly fact, thinly sliced bacon would work best.
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Lightly season the pork tenderloin with salt and pepper.  Begin the wrap the bacon slices around the pork, cutting the bacon strips so that the ends overlap slightly.  If you are worried that the bacon will not stick to the pork then you can tie the pork with kitchen string.

Place the tenderloin seam side down in an oven proof skillet and over medium heat - lightly brown the pork for three to five minutes so that the seams stick.  Turn over and continue browning for another three to five minutes.  You do not want the bacon to completely crisp up but want some coloring to occur.

After browning, place in the oven for 20 minutes.  Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

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