bifana – sliced pork tenderloin with caramelized onions and garlic aioli on focaccia
The coupon for $15 off at Ceia Kitchen and Bar in Newburyport, MA that I got at the Techmunch conference a few weeks ago was all the motivation we needed to make a day trip. Joseph and I headed to Newburyport for my first real excursion since knee surgery and I hobbled around town moving from one bench to another (luckily Newburyport has a lot of benches!). It was a beautiful day and I was so excited to be out of the house that my mood was absolutely jubilant before we even sat down for lunch at Ceia and things only improved from there.
We knew we were going the panino route and they only had four panini on the menu, so you’d think it would have been an easy choice, but it really wasn’t. I suggested we split the sandwiches because I really wanted to try all of them, but we still had a hard time narrowing it down to just two. The decision was made both easier and harder after our server explained that the bifana panini was written up by Boston.com as being one of Boston’s best sandwiches (easy choice) and that the special of the day was a lobster BLT panino (you’re giving us another option?!?). We decided on the bifana and the lobster BLT and and as wonderful as lobster BLT sounds and as good as it was, it didn’t even come close to the amazingness that was the bifana. I was absolutely in love.
Joseph, my wonderful, amazing husband who is always up for a challenge, declared that we could make this yummy sandwich at home and I was all for finding out if we could get it to be even half as delicious as Ceia’s. Once we saw the whopping $30 price tag on a pound of beef tenderloin, we meandered over to the pork tenderloin which was considerably more affordable. Turns out bifana is traditionally made with pork anyway!
So what is bifana? It’s a Portuguese sandwich made with pork marinated in wine, vinegar, garlic, and herbs. Ceia uses beef tenderloin and serves it with caramelized onions and pepronata aioli. We used pork tenderloin and the same garlic aioli that we used with our oven baked garlic fries, and of course the caramelized onions. Our version wasn’t quite the same as Ceia’s beef sandwich, but the marinated pork was super juicy and packed with flavor, while the caramelized onions rounded it out really nicely. All in all, it was just as good and it’s a whole lot cheaper to make at home. Still, we might just have to go back to Ceia sometime and get a bifano to go for a picnic by the water.
Bifana- Sliced Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Garlic Aioli on Focaccia Bread
For the Caramelized Onions
- 1 onion, sliced (preferably Spanish or other sweet onion but you can use whatever you have on hand)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Garlic Aioli:
- 2 tablespoons light mayo
- 2 tablespoons fat free greek yogurt
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1/3 cup dry white wine (we used Chardonnay)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/8 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
For the Sandwich
- 1/2 pound pork tenderloin (or you can use beef tenderloin like Ceia if you’d rather)
- sliced tomato
- lettuce leaves
- sliced focaccia bread or rolls
- Combine all the marinade ingredients in a nonreactive bowl or a ziplock bag. Marinate the pork for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
- Make the caramelized onions: Heat the butter and oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, reduce heat to low and add onions and stir to coat. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the onions are soft and have released most of their moisture, about 1 hour. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are deeply browned and slightly sticky, about 20 minutes longer. (If the onions are sizzling or scorching, reduce the heat. If the onions are not browning after 10 minutes, raise the heat.)
- For the aioli, combine the mayo, yogurt and 1 crushed garlic clove in a small bowl and mix with a fork. Set aside or refrigerate until you’re assembling the sandwiches.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat some canola oil in a large skillet. Pat pork dry and then season with kosher salt and pepper and sear in the pan, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes.
- Transfer the pork to a roasting pan and roast until the internal temperature reaches 135 or 140 degrees, about 15 minutes. Transfer the roast to a carving board and cover with tented aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve the pork on the diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4 inch-thick slices.
- Spread the garlic aioli on both slices of the focaccia bread. Assemble the sandwich with pork slices, caramelized onions, lettuce and a slice of tomato.
Number of servings (yield): 2