Polish style pork tenderloin is topped with a creamy mushroom sauce and served alongside homemade potato dumplings (kopytka) and bacon-kissed kale.
I’ve written before about how I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel, and how I enjoy creating dishes I’ve tasted on my trips. Example number one: this Lomo Saltado from Peru.
Today’s dish is based on a lunch I ate in Krakow, Poland, in August, 2016. (Yes, I have a very good memory for food.) I was on a group tour. In the morning, we visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Afterwards, our tour guide dropped us off in the Old Town Square. We were meeting our local guide there at 3pm for a walking tour, but we had free time until then. The group I was hanging out with on the tour wanted to eat at this Italian restaurant right on the main square. So, I already ate Italian food like three times on this two-week trip to stay with the group and be social, but I really wanted to eat Polish food. So I decided to be anti-social and just go off on my own and eat lunch at a Polish restaurant by myself. I picked this place that was only a block away, still in a very touristy area. It had an English menu, but everyone at the tables around me was speaking Polish. The waiter started talking to me in Polish and then told me I looked like a local, which happened quite a few times during this trip. I do have some ancestors from that part of the world, but trust me, I don’t dress well enough to pass as European.
It was actually a Georgian Polish restaurant, and the bread they served reminded me of Uzbek bread I’ve had in New York. I ordered from the Polish side of the menu, and I got a dish described as pork with wild mushroom sauce with beets and potato dumplings. Here is a photo I took:
After lunch, I did some souvenir shopping in the Cloth Hall. There is a legend about a dragon who lived in a cave at the bottom of Wawel Hill in Krakow. There is even a “dragon bone” in front of Wawel Cathedral. Jonathan’s Chinese zodiac sign is the dragon, and we both like stories with dragons. They sell these plush dragons all over Krakow, and I had to buy one for him. I know it’s not the most authentic souvenir. What does it say about me that after this whole story about having to eat Polish food in Poland, I had to have this made-in-China dragon?
But how cute is he? I got him as a gift for Jonathan, who named him Baby Basil.
Now that I’ve indulged myself in telling that story, back to the recipe.
Here are the some of the main ingredients:
We’ve got two pork tenderloins, some bacon, some Russian red kale, some baby portabella (aka cremini) mushrooms, some russet potatoes, and some dill.
I ate a lot of fatty meat in Eastern Europe, so I was really happy to eat a leaner cut of meat. The pork tenderloin is very quick and easy to cook. I browned it in some bacon fat and then finished it in the oven. If you take care not to overcook it, it stays juicy and tender.
The mushroom sauce, which is optional if you’re not a mushroom fan, is also pretty easy. Sauté some mushrooms in butter, add broth, thicken with flour, finish with sour cream. Smother your pork tenderloin with creamy tasty mushrooms.
Take a look at this mushroom sauce:
Now as for my vegetable choice, beets are very popular in Polish cooking, and I wouldn’t say I dislike them. But I do prefer green vegetables. You could, of course, make this with any vegetable you like. If you don’t want to dirty another pot or pan, I think a simple green salad would fit the bill. I was in the mood for heartier greens. Then I found this interesting article saying that kale has been used in traditional Polish cuisine since the 17th century, so I went with it. And that bacon I cooked to use the bacon fat to brown the pork tenderloin? I threw those bacon pieces in with the kale because, why not?
Let’s talk about the potato dumplings, which I included as a separate portion of the recipe. Polish potato dumplings, called kopytka, are very similar to Italian gnocchi. After comparing the ingredients, the only real difference I can find between the two is the shape. Kopytka means “little hooves” in Polish, and I can kind of see it…
If you don’t want to make the dumplings, you can buy gnocchi from the supermarket and use that. I’m not going to be a snob and say you have to make everything from scratch and grow the wheat in your backyard and grind the flour yourself. I mean, even the potato dumplings in that photo from the restaurant look suspiciously machine-made.
However, if you have the time, I think you’ll find it worth it to make the dumplings. Once my ingredients were prepped, I was able to get this whole dinner together in the 1 hour, 20 minutes time listed on the recipe, but there is a lot going on here. You have the pork, the dumplings, the mushroom sauce, and the kale. If I was having company over or just short on time, I personally would want to make the dumplings ahead of time to make everything easier for myself. So I had to research a make-ahead option.
I tried making the dumplings the day before, leaving them in the fridge on a sheet pan uncooked, and then cooking them the next day. The problem is, when left in the fridge overnight, something oxidizes and the dumplings turned black. (It looks like the fresh gnocchi they sell in the refrigerated sections at supermarkets has ascorbic acid added to prevent this from happening.) So you cannot keep these dumplings in the fridge before cooking.
But, I do have a simple solution for you. Boil the dumplings, as specified in the recipe. Then toss with melted butter and refrigerate. You can reheat them in the microwave for up to a week, and, I swear, they taste exactly the same as when they were freshly boiled. So if you want to make the dumplings ahead of time, just cook them all the way.
By the way, another way to enjoy kopytka is fried. After they’re boiled, you can pan fry them in butter, maybe with some fried onions, and top with sour cream. If you have leftover dumplings, you should try it. I think it’s good with eggs for a weekend breakfast.
If you do make the dumplings, here are some photos I took that may help.
The dumpling ingredients: mashed russet potatoes, white flour, white whole wheat flour, sour cream, egg, and salt. I made mine with half white flour and half white whole wheat flour. We like whole wheat pasta, but I went with half and half so the dumplings wouldn’t get too dense. If you prefer lighter, fluffier dumplings, you can use all white flour.
Mixing it up:
This is not all of my dough, but to give you an idea what the different steps look like. You’ll break off pieces of dough, roll them out into long strands, and then cut them on a diagonal to make the “little hoof” shape.
Here they are ready to be cooked:
I hope you’ll give these dumplings a try. They go great with the mushroom sauce!
Polish Style Pork Tenderloin with Potato Dumplings
- 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 cup flour, plus additional for your working surface
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 3 slices bacon, chopped
- 2 pork tenderloins (roughly 2 1/2 pounds total)
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 20 ounces baby portabella/ cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup chicken or beef broth
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bunch kale, deveined and chopped
- fresh chopped dill for garnish (at least 2 tablespoons)
- Put potatoes in a pot and sprinkle some salt over them. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and let potatoes cool for at least 15 minutes. (While you are waiting, start making the pork.)
- Mash potatoes by hand or using a blender or food processor. Add mashed potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Add flour, whole wheat flour, sour cream, egg, and salt. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Dust your cutting board or counter work space with flour. Have a small dish of flour nearby to flour your hands and your work space as needed. Transfer dough to cutting board and knead for 1 to 2 minutes, until you can work with the texture. If the dough is very dry and crumbly, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. (The first time I made this, I didn’t need to add any water. The second time I added 2 tablespoons. It depends on how much moisture is in your potatoes.) Break off a handful of dough at a time. With your hands, roll the dough into strands about 1 inch thick. (If the dough comes apart as you’re rolling it, you can squish it back together and keep going.) Cut the strands of dough on a diagonal into 1 ½ to 2 inch pieces.
- Drop half of dumplings into boiling water. Stir just a little to prevent them from sticking. When the dumplings rise to the top, cook for 3 minutes longer. Remove dumplings from the pot with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon butter. Then cook second half of dumplings. Add to the first batch and toss with 1 more tablespoon butter. Cover to keep warm.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Heat a large cast iron or other oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until browning, about 7 minutes. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate.
- Season pork with salt and pepper. Turn heat to medium-high. Add pork tenderloins to the pan with the bacon fat and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Turn with tongs to get all sides browned.
- Turn off heat and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. (While pork is roasting, continue to the next steps to make the sauce and kale.) Remove tenderloins to cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.
- Make the sauce: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release their juices, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon flour and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly. Add broth and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Right before you eat, mix in sour cream.
- Make the kale: Heat olive oil over medium heat in a pot, saucepan, or large skillet (really whatever you have left at this point). Add kale and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in chopped bacon and cook 2 more minutes.
- To serve: Divide dumplings, sliced pork tenderloin, and kale between serving plates. Spoon the mushroom sauce over pork and dumplings, or serve on the side. Garnish with dill.
The potato dumplings can be made ahead fully cooked and reheated in the microwave. (Do not refrigerate raw dumplings before cooking.)