Monday, March 2, 2015

spice-crusted pork tenderloin

You all know of my deep and abiding love of all things pork, but I have been keeping a dirty little secret from you: I am not a fan of pork tenderloin. I love the texture of it, but similar to beef tenderloin, it has very little flavor in and of itself, and to a card-carrying meat lover, that's kind of sad-making. That, along with the fact that tenderloin is super lean and easy to over-cook have led me to just basically avoid buying it for many years.

Until this past weekend.

Sexy meat.
I found a recipe for spice-crusted pork tenderloin in a Cooks Illustrated collection of "skillet dinners". They showed medallions of rosy moist pork heavily crusted with spice and served with a sexy golden-brown potato roesti (which, for the unintiated, is basically a giant pan-fried hash brown and is one of the best things you can make with potatoes. Which is saying a lot, in my book, because I love me some potatoes). I was sold. I needed to try it. I tried to talk myself out of it, but it just wasn't working. The hook was firmly set and I surrendered to the pull.

The recipe calls for rolling the tenderloins in a mixture of spices (caraway seeds, ground coriander, nutmeg, allspice, salt and black pepper), then searing the meat off on all sides in a hot pan with a bit of melted butter. The meat then goes in a baking dish in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes until it hits 140 degrees. You take the meat out at that point, tent it with foil, and let it rest until it hits 150. I ended up having to leave mine in the oven for about 22 minutes to get it to 140 degrees, but that was entirely my own fault because I didn't pull the meat out of the fridge until like 20 minutes before I wanted to cook, which is a rookie move.

Even with the added cooking time, the meat stayed super juicy and tender, though. And when I say tender, I mean could cut it with the side of your fork. No knives necessary. Redonkulous. I think next time I make this, I'm going to pre-rub the meat (hurrrr) with the spice mixture and let it sit for a while before I cook it, just to see if the flavors sink in more. I suppose you could brine the tenderloin ahead of time if you were feeling really fucking ambitious about it, but a) I'm never that ambitious and b) I'd be a little worried that brining might turn the meat mushy rather than impart more flavor. I don't know. If you try it, tell me what you think.

The roesti was a little more work - I opted to shred my potatoes by hand rather than using my small and finicky food processor, so I got a good triceps workout holding the box grater at a weird angle in the bowl. You then have to rinse the excess starch off the shredded potato, then scoop it into a clean dish towel and wring as much water as you can out of it. You season the potato with salt and pepper, add a little corn starch to help bind the potato together better (there was a reason for this given in the write-up about the recipe but I was skimming so...yeah. No science today, sorry!), then plunk it all into a hot pan with some melted butter and keep squishing it down until it's a nice compact disc. It gets all GBD (golden brown delicious) on one side, then you flip it (which is a delicate operation, I tell you what), and let it get GBD on the other side. BOOM. Giant hash brown heaven. I will say, with regard to the roesti, that I should have had my heat turned up higher when I started, so it ended up kind of greasy. EVEN SO. Giant hash brown. So crunchy, much nom.

I steamed up some green beans with almonds to complete the plate. In retrospect, I could have made them more fancy with like some orange zest and cranberries, I'm the weirdo who likes green beans even raw, so they don't need much fancying up for me to shove them in my nom-hole.

God, nom-hole sounds dirty. I'm keeping it. I love it. Heeeeee.

Anyway - this dinner is gloriously gluten-free (assuming you're doing your own due diligence on your spices). If you're going the Paleo or Primal route, you'd want to omit the corn starch and white potatoes, depending on how strict you're being.

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