How to keep the tender in pork tenderloin


When it comes to pork, I’ll happily eat the ears. I’ll linger over the liver, fricassee the feet, chomp on the chops. I’d even figure out how to cook the oink if I could get my hands on it.

The only cut that has ever left me cold is the tenderloin.

A thin, lean muscle that runs along the central spine of the pig, its name reflects its reputation as one of the most tender cuts of the animal.

But that’s only if you don’t overcook it.

The cut contains very little fat, so overcooking can happen in the mere seconds it takes to dig your meat thermometer out of the drawer, turning a potentially juicy piece of pork into something dry and tough.

For years I avoided the tenderloin, choosing the fattier options.

But at a friend’s suggestion, I recently gave it another go. After all, pork tenderloin is easy to find and fast to cook, making it extremely weeknight friendly. My goal was to come up with a surefire recipe that helps preserve the moisture of the meat.

One solution is to stuff the meat with something that will keep its moisture and zip up its inherently mild character. A pungent mix of shallots, capers and herbs accomplishes both.

The best way to stuff a pork tenderloin is to butterfly it — that is, cut it in half lengthwise, but not quite all the way through, keeping the two pieces attached so you can open the cut like a book. This gives you maximum space for stuffing. Then all you have to do is close it up, tying it with some kitchen twine to so the filling doesn’t escape in the pan.

A bonus of tying up the meat is that you can form it into an evenly shaped cylinder. Untied, the tenderloin tapers at one end, which means either the thinner side or the thicker side — but not both — can be cooked to pink perfection. Tying it solves this problem; simply fold the thinner end up over itself to make the roast thicker, and secure it.

And about the word “pink”: You should take your pork off the heat while it’s still a little pink on the inside. An internal temperature of 145 degrees will give you succulent meat that lives up to its name, a tender loin that is flavorful, too.

Pork Tenderloin Stuffed With Herbs and Capers

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

1 3/4 pounds pork tenderloin

1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 shallots, minced

2 1/2 tablespoons minced capers, plus a splash of their liquid

2 1/2 teaspoons chopped sage

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped rosemary

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme, more for serving

1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced

1 tablespoon dry white wine or vermouth (or use more stock)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup pork, chicken or other meat stock

1 to 2 tablespoons butter

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)

Preparation:

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Slice pork tenderloin lengthwise to butterfly it, but don’t quite slice all the way through: The 2 pieces should remain attached. Season with salt and pepper, then let sit while you prepare filling.

2. In a large, oven-safe skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Stir in shallots, 1/2 tablespoon capers, 2 teaspoons sage, 1 teaspoon rosemary, 1 teaspoon thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Stirring frequently, cook until shallots start to brown, about 5 minutes, then stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. (Adjust heat if necessary to prevent burning.) Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Wipe out skillet and reserve.

3. Spread cooled filling evenly on pork, then close pork, along the hinge, like a book. Then fold the thinner end up against the thicker portion so that pork is the same width all over. Tie with kitchen twine at 1 1/2-inch intervals.

4. In the same skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until oil is hot but not smoking. Place tenderloin seam-side up in the skillet, then transfer to oven and roast for 15 minutes. Flip pork over and continue roasting until meat reaches 140 to 145 degrees in the center, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer meat to a cutting board to rest; reserve skillet and juices.

5. While the meat rests, make the sauce: Heat skillet over medium-high heat, then stir in vermouth and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each sage, rosemary and thyme, scraping up the browned bits on bottom of pan. Cook until vermouth is almost evaporated, then add orange juice and stock, and cook over medium-high heat until thickened and syrupy. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons capers, their liquid and the butter; season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce tastes too sweet, add a squeeze of lemon juice.

6. To serve, slice pork into 1/2-inch-thick slices and top with sauce and fresh thyme.

— Sidebar:

And To Drink ...

With this zesty, herbal tenderloin roast, my first choice would be a riesling. While almost any riesling in the range of dry to moderately sweet will go well, this dish also presents an opportunity to drink a really good riesling, like one from a top vineyard in the Wachau region of Austria; a balanced, dry riesling from Alsace or Germany; or, if you don’t fear sweetness, a spatlese riesling from the Mosel or Nahe regions of Germany. Other white options? A chenin blanc from Savennières or Saumur-Champigny would go brilliantly, as would a Chablis or a Sancerre. For a red, I would try something fairly light: a straightforward Valpolicella, a cru Beaujolais or a village Burgundy.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food & Dining

4 delicious (and healthy!) dishes you can enjoy dining out in Dayton
4 delicious (and healthy!) dishes you can enjoy dining out in Dayton

Health experts tell you that a healthy meal means that over half of your plate should be filled with vegetables. Sounds great right? But how many of us actually follow that rule when we go out to eat? Treating yourself to a meal outside of the home doesn’t mean that your health has to go out the window. Corner Kitchen gives you the option...
5 reasons you should go to District Day 2017
5 reasons you should go to District Day 2017

The Oregon District is throwing a big party this Saturday, and you’ve got to be there. Fifth Street is known for its great nightlife, but it’s more than just a destination for drinks. The Oregon District is full of great shopping, incredible restaurants, and is a go-to spot for movie goers, coffee drinkers, music lovers, and everything...
The blobs in your tea? They’re supposed to be there
The blobs in your tea? They’re supposed to be there

The Starbucks on Waverly Place in Greenwich Village was all but empty at 8:30 on a recent Wednesday night, but across the street at Boba Guys, a bubble milk tea shop, the line was long. So was the wait: A wave of first-timers had just arrived at the front counter, uncertain of the drill and even more about the boba tea drinks, which are relatively...
Swap the hot grill for a cool drink and low oven
Swap the hot grill for a cool drink and low oven

Why is it that whenever I decide to grill outdoors in New York, it turns out to be the hottest day of the century? This has occurred several times this season. Most recently, I had intended to light the coals and cook up a pile of ribs. But then I caved. Did I really want to stand over a hot fire in the scorching midday sun? It was easy to opt for...
A feel-good skillet dinner starring salmon
A feel-good skillet dinner starring salmon

This skillet dinner is the kind of recipe everyone should have tucked in their back pocket. It is simple cooking at its best - a one-pan meal that is nearly effortless to prepare, made with everyday ingredients that come together quickly. You can summon the energy to make it even when you come home feeling too tired to cook. The payoff in flavor, beauty...
More Stories