Thursday, August 30, 2012

Herb brined pork tenderloin with green bean, fig, and potato salad

Alright folks, we're nearing the end of my multi-course dinner blog entries. Today I'm sharing with you my main course: pork tenderloin.

Who else out there loves pork tenderloin as much as I do?!? It's literally my favorite protein to cook for a few reasons. It's quick. It's healthy. It's super moist. And it's a good size when you're regularly cooking for one, or 2 if you manage to add an extra person to your cooking repertoire as well...

Roasted and sliced and ready to eat

Prior to trying this recipe my ultimate favorite way to make pork tenderloin was by coating it with a Chinese 5-spice mixture, searing it on all sides, and cooking it in the oven until the internal temperature is ~140 degrees. I'm actually shocked I haven't blogged about that recipe before-- I rarely make a dish more than once yet I cook that dish at least once every few months. Recipe to come soon(ish). I promise. Edit: recipe here!

But for this dinner I tried something very different. I brined my pork tenderloin before searing/baking it.  I've brined a turkey before, which makes the meat insanely juicy and flavorful, but it is a pain in the ass if you don't have giant buckets that can fit in your fridge. Luckily 1 or 2 pork tenderloins are much less annoying to deal with.

The moistest and most flavorful pork tenderloin you will ever have

So why is brining so amazing?? Well, if you're a science nerd like me and are interested in how it works, here's a ridiculously awesome bio-licious explanation. But if you don't feel like reading the very fascinating article, all you need to know is this: brining results in the most juicy meat you'll ever eat. It also brings the flavor of the brine into the pork meat. So with every single bite of the tenderloin you could actually taste the rosemary. Each and every bite was succulent and moan-inducing.

What else made this the most insanely moist pork tenderloin I've ever made. A few reasons, all of which I think are pretty critical:

Jackie's Tips for Moist Meat
  1. Buy FRESH pork tenderloin and not the kind that's been prewrapped in shrinkwrapped plastic. I used to get the bagged stuff, like at Trader Joes, and it's not bad. But the fresh stuff from the meat counter is so much better.
  2. BRINE it! (see above)
  3. Let your meat WARM UP a bit after removing it from the fridge. About 30 minutes at room temp means it'll cook a lot more evenly.
  4. After cooking the meat, let it REST. (Tented with foil to help retain the heat.) At least 10 minutes. Maybe longer. Trust me, cutting into the meat too soon doesn't let the juices redistribute and they just come oozing out of your meat and onto your plate-- leading to dry meat. No bueno.
  5. Roast the pork until the internal temperature is 135 - 140 degrees. Don't listen to the USDA. (OK fine, maybe listen to them if you are baby or an immunocomprimsed adult. But if you're an adult with a healthy immune system, the likelihood of trichinosis is soooo slim that I'd rather live my life eating delicious pork than overcooked leather.) Plus, as your meat rests (see #3) the temperature will increase by at least 5 degrees. If you're really worried, fine, cook it to 140 - 150 degrees. But for the love of god please do not cook it much more than that!
Trust me. I know my pork tenderloin.

To go with the pork I decided to make a green bean and potato "salad" with walnuts, radishes, and fresh figs (and prosciutto- which I forgot. Sad face.) What's great about it is that I didn't have to worry about timing the side dish with the pork because I served it at room temperature. (aka: I prepared the salad earlier in the day and then just unwrapped it when the pork was done.) Plus, after all we'd eaten that day already it was a great light and low-carb side dish.

I would never in a million years have put these ingredients together. 
But it was delicious! A perfect summer salad.

Yours in almost being as tired writing up all these blog posts as cooking the 5+ course meal,
Jacqueline

Herbed Pork Tenderloin, adapted from ad hoc at home
Note: I highly recommend making the brine at least 1 day in advance and cooling it in the fridge overnight. I made mine the day-of and I had to figure out a way to cool down that liquid FAST. I ended up throwing some ice cubes in there and putting it in my freezer for a bit (and stirring it constantly), but it was a pain in the a$$. So do as I say (make it in advance), not as I did.

Note #2: The original recipe also called for using 8 slices of cured lemons, which take ~2 weeks to cure. Sounds like it would have been a great addition, but I didn't plan that far in advance. It was still great as-is though

Ingredients

Pork brine (see below)
2 pork tenderloins, ~1 1/4 lb each
Canola oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 TBSP unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, smashed and skin left on
6 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
8 slices cured lemons, optional (I did not include the recipe below but I'm sure you can find it online)
grey salt or coarse sea salt, optional

Directions

1. Prepare pork brine at least 1 day before cooking your meal. (See recipe below)
2. Add the pork to the brine and refrigerate for 4 hours (no longer, or the pork may become salty).
3. Remove the pork (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels or let air-dry. Let the tenderloins sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set a roasting rack in a roasting pan or put some foil down on a baking sheet.
5. Pour some canola oil into a large frying and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Season the pork with pepper and a bit of salt (optional), add to the pan, and sear until golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Add the butter, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and lemon slices and cook, tilting the pan and using a spoon to baste the pork with the pan juices, for 2 minutes.
6. Transfer the meat to the roasting rack or to your baking dish. Top with lemon slices and the garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Roast until the internal temperature is 135 to 140 degrees, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven ad let the meat rest for 15 minutes for medium rare to medium.
7. Slice pork on the diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4 inch-thick slices. Arrange on a serving platter and garnish with garlic, rosemary, thyme, and lemons. Sprinkle grey salt over the top.

Pork brine
8 cups water
1/4 cup + 2 TBSP honey
12 bay leaves
3 large rosemary sprigs
1/2 bunch (1/2 ounce) thyme
1/2 bounce (2 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup garlic gloves, crushed, skin left on
2 TBSP black peppercorns, whole
5 ounces kosher salt (this is 1 cup for Diamond Crystal, but closer to 1/2 cup of my Morton's Kosher salt I think. As the salt content is so critical to the brine I highly suggest weighing it)

Combine all the ingedients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. oil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Green Bean and Potato Salad with walnuts, figs, and sherry dressing, from ad hoc at home

I'm sooooooooo beyond lazy right now that I really don't feel like typing up this whole thing. So I've taken photos of the recipes from the book and put them below. Is it a little involved for a salad? Sure, a little bit. But it looks worse than it is. And I have to say, do NOT skip the step where you boil the potatoes with the herb sachet. I couldn't believe just how much flavor permeated into the potatoes! It was divine. I think if I learned one thing to take away from this recipe its to boil my potatoes with herbs in the water. 

Things I changed:
- I toasted the walnuts in a dry pan instead of the oven (its hot here for excessive oven use!)
- I forgot to add the prosciutto to the salad :(
- I put all my salad dressing ingredients in a jar and shook them up (even though he says not to emulsify the dressing, I didn't really care)
- I didn't bother "layering" the salad. I pretty much just combined the green beans, potatoes and walnuts with the dressing, put it in on a large platter, then topped it with the sliced radishes and figs (and prosciutto, if I remembered to take it out of my fridge)

The Salad
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