Saturday, November 3, 2007

Pork Tenderloin: Bacon's healthier cousin

I usually don't have much protein on hand. And, yes, I called it protein, not meat, fish, beans or anything else. That's a relic from culinary school, but in all honesty, it's not a bad way to think of food. Our bodies don't need beef, pork or chicken (the midwest's three food groups?), they just need protein no matter how we get it. So, I have a lentil recipe I'll share another day, but tonight I'm going to show you the nice pork tenderloin I picked up at Fairway.

Now, pork tenderloin is not to be confused with pork loin. You wouldn't confuse filet mignon with strip steak, would you? I didn't think so... Generally, an animal's tenderloin is the leanest, purest cut of meat. It runs along the back unerneath the loin and is the cut most often used for tartare and other raw preparations. It's also usually the most expensive cut. Anyway....

Tonight I cheated and looked up a recipe to use for my pork tenderloin. I was looking for a recipe that incorporated miso paste since I had some of that on hand as well, but instead I came across this recipe for pork tenderloin with roased apples and onions. I fudged it and used macintosh apples instead of granny smith, balsamic mustard instead of whole grain dijon, and thyme and rosemary instead of fennel seed, but the technique was more or less the same.

I seared the pork in olive oil, took it out of the pan, sauteed the apple and onion slices and then placed the pork back on top with a smear of mustard and a healthy sprinkle of the dried herbs. Then I popped that into a 450°F oven until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the thickest point reached 150°F. Then I put the pork back on a clean cutting board to rest while I added some wine to the apple/onion mixture and cooked it down a bit on the stovetop. After a quick slice—I should have waited longer becuase I lost a lot of juices when I sliced it—I tossed it onto a plate and sat down to eat.

Overall, this recipe needs some revision. The apples cooked down into something resembling a savory applesauce. Granny smiths and thicker slices would have probably helped that. Also, the pork didn't have a lot of flavor, probably because it's hard to get a really good sear on a piece of meat in a home kitchen. (Home stoves often don't get near as hot as a commercial range and you have smoke detectors to deal with instead of a huge hood vent—not fun!) And then there's the splattering... The pros don't worry about this and just hose down the kitchen at the end of the night, but grease splatter in the home isn't so easy to deal with given the lack of stainless steel surfaces and waterproof floors with drains. My mom (the most frequent commenter on this site so far) hates it when I cook in her kitchen. Nevermind how the food turns out, it's the cleaning that she dreads. And I admit, I'm not able to clean as well as she'd like. Sorry mom!

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