I think I’ve told you that upon the retirement of my husband at the beginning of September, we spent some time visiting our favorite parts of France. One of my much-loved areas is the South of France, and one of my favorite towns there is Aix-en-Provence.
                One evening we wandered into a nice little square that had several cafés and open air restaurants. After a leisurely apéritif in one of the cafés, we chose a restaurant for dinner, Tapas Café (www.tapascafe.com). As you might guess, it features the small plates of Spain. We ordered an assortment of goodies and sat and enjoyed our selections, which came one or two at a time, as they were ready.  One of the dishes was an evening special, “Lomo de Cerdo con Chorizo a la Parilla.”  It was a pork tenderloin that had been stuffed with diced chorizo, rubbed with the smoked paprika of Spain, skewered to keep it closed, and grilled. Served with a sauce of red bell pepper, it was my favorite plate of the evening.
            Recently I thought I’d like to try something similar but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was too windy and rainy to grill.  No problem. I could easily do it in the oven.
Then I went shopping for Spanish chorizo. It’s a dried sausage, like a salami, unlike Mexican chorizo, which is a fresh sausage needing to be cooked.  I found it, but it was expensive. Enough to make this dish would have been around $12.  Pepperoni is similar enough in taste and texture for a dish of this sort. You can go to the deli counter of almost any market and ask for sandwich pepperoni.  Have it sliced a bit less than ¼-inch thick and dice it.
                So, a few recipe changes, a rice pilaf and a green veggie, and we had a lovely dinner for friends. All we needed was the weather and ambiance of the South of France!

Spanish-Inspired Pepperoni-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

 2 pork tenderloins (total 2 ½ to 3 pounds)

5-6 ounces sandwich pepperoni
¼ cup good fruity extra virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
¾ cup diced onion
½ cup diced red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1 cup dry white wine

                Preheat the oven to 400o.  Trim the silverskin from the pork tenderloin and cut the tenderloin almost in half lengthwise, being careful not to cut it all the way through.  Set aside.
                If there is a casing on the outside of the pepperoni, remove it.  Cut into cubes a bare ¼-inch across. In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the pepperoni cubes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have rendered their fat and are crispy, about ten minutes.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the oil as possible in the pan. Let them drain on a paper towel.
When cooled, place them in a bowl with the parsley and toss to mix.  Sprinkle the inside of the pork with salt and pepper.  Stuff with the pepperoni mixture.  Tie at about 1 ½ inch intervals to close.  
In the fat remaining in the pan, brown the pork on all sides, especially the top.  Place in a baking dish.  In the same pan, cook the onion, bell pepper and garlic until soft but not browned.  Add the smoked paprika and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Scrape into the baking dish, surrounding the pork tenderloins. 
Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Pour over the pork.  Place in the oven and roast until a meat thermometer reads 145o. This will probably take 20-30 minutes but start checking after 15 minutes. You may want to cook it longer, but 145o is high enough health-wise and gives you very moist and tender pork that is still a bit pink inside. Let the pork rest about five minutes, then slice, plate, and drizzle the pan sauce over each serving. Serves 6-8. 


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