Most famous of any of France's dishes, other than croissants, escargot, or baguettes, is probably ratatouille. It is impossible to mention the name without thinking of the Disney movie, with its cooking rat and blithe disregard for public health standards. But the ratatouille shown in the movie is actually the tian of Southern France - a sort of vegetable gratin, of caramelized onions forming a bed on which is laid an intricate spiral circle pattern of tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini, and not a ratatouille, which is a sort of stewed vegetable medley. It's a beautiful dish, and wonderful to eat. There is a feeling of springtime it, whatever time of the year you eat. Freshness, green, the mad excess of vegetables with their delightfully different notes.
It is hard to improve on perfection, and I don't so much think of this as an improvement on a tian as a different version of it: another one of my favorite, simple but delightful, recipes is pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloin is cheap, but very, well - tender - and easy to prepare, and it simply soaks up flavor. It goes wonderfully with rosemary, thyme, garlic, which perfume it with a superb freshness and verdant feeling of a garden. So why not match the two together? By having the pork tenderloin on top of the tian, and making the tian in the pan which the pork tenderloin is cooked in, it gives it the helpings of pork drippings as the pork cook, and the two combine together into a full meal. Simple, easy, and elegant.
I adopted the recipe from the tian from Rachel Khoo's My Little French Kitchen: Over 100 Recipes from the Mountains, Market Squares, and Gardens of France, which I quite enjoy for its diverse variety of recipes from the provinces of France. I didn't include the traditional eggplant in my tian since not everyone in my family likes it, but otherwise the base tian is quite similar.
- 3 red onions
- 5 tomatoes
- 3 zuchini
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds pork tenderloin, (mine was in x2 tenderloins)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- Rub the pork tenderloin with salt, pepper, 3 peeled and diced cloves of garlic, the 4 sprigs of chopped rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, and some olive oil, and let the flavor work in, preferably a few hours prior.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, preferably oven safe, skillet, then sear the pork tenderloins for several minutes, swishing them back and forth in the olive oil to prevent the tender skin from being shredded.
- Remove from heat, and set aside. Cover to keep warm. Pour more olive oil into the skillet.
- Fry the 3 red onions, chopped 4 garlic cloves, and 1 teaspoon thyme for 10 minutes over medium heat, until the onions are soft and are starting to turn golden. Turn off the heat and remove from the stove top. If the skillet is oven safe, keep them here, if not, transfer to an oven safe dish.
- Slice the zucchini and tomatoes into thin slices, and then layer them on top in a circular arrangement on top of the onions. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt.
- Place the pork tenderloin on top of the vegetables, so that the drippings of it are absorbed by the skillet or dish. Place into an oven for 50 minutes at 350 degrees F.
- Allow to rest a few minutes, and then serve, with bread preferably.