Just because the holidays are over and we're into a new year, that doesn't mean the need for "roast beast" is over. Hearty winter dinners are still the order of the evening, but cold weather eating doesn't have to be all about stews and soups. You can serve up some easy (and relatively quick) meals with a bit of finesse, using pork tenderloin and coordinating it with whatever flavoring elements you decide to add.
Pork tenderloin is a tempting entree item since it's generally lean and mild, is easy and quick to fix and with planovers in mind, it can star in later weekday dinners, like stir-fries, quick pasta or hot sandwiches.
Our recommendation du jour is that you ignore those tenderloins out there that others have seasoned for you and just get the "plain" ones. It's probably a good idea on several levels, but mainly because the manufacturers' flavors that we've tried seem too full of sodium and preservatives and certain spices that may not be to your, and your family's, tastes.
And our project du jour is to provide suggestions for you to try when you're in the mood to fix a "Sunday" roast any night of the week.
Maple syrup seems a natural with pork, as you'll discover in this simple recipe. Accompany with oven-roasted butternut squash, some buttered Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes. Or do a rice pilaf.
2 (12- to 14-ounce) pork tenderloins, at room temperature
2 teaspoons dried sage
1 tablespoon each, butter and peanut oil
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup, divided
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
3 tablespoons reduced fat/sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons country style (coarse) Dijon mustard
Rub tenderloins all over with sage, then sprinkle with coarsely ground pepper.
In a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high, heat butter until hot and bubbly. Add tenderloins and cook until brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook about 10 minutes longer, turning occasionally, until a thermometer inserted into pork registers 160 degrees.
Remove to a platter. Tent with foil to keep warm.
In a small bowl, whisk together 5 tablespoons of the maple syrup, 4 tablespoons of the vinegar, the 3 tablespoons chicken broth and the Dijon mustard. Keep handy..
Add remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low. Return pork and any accumulated juices to skillet. Add maple syrup mixture and turn pork in glaze just until coated, about 2 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board. Wait 5 minutes, then carve into thin slices. Arrange pork slices on a warm platter.
Stir remaining maple syrup into glaze in pan. Taste for pepper, and salt. Spoon over pork and serve. Makes 6 or more servings.
As with poultry, pork takes nicely to fruit. In this recipe, fresh apples and dried fruit fill the inside of the tenderloins (making them extra moist and delicious), and also provide flavor for the sauce. To go with, try a rice pilaf and green beans almandine. Add some frozen corn, if you like. Or do a sauteed red cabbage.
3/4 cup coarsely chopped mixed, dried fruit, e.g. golden raisins, cranberries, apricots, prunes
1/3 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1/3 cup finely chopped Vidalia onion
1/4 cup water
Freshly ground pepper
2 (12-ounce) pork tenderloins
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup reduced fat/sodium chicken broth
In a small bowl, mix dried fruit with wine. Set aside.
In a large, non-stick skillet, over medium heat, melt butter. Add apple and cook 3 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add water as the pan dries out.
Drain dried fruit, reserving wine. Add dried fruit to skillet with apple and onion. Season with pepper. Transfer to a plate to cool. Coarsely chop half the fruit mixture, place in a bowl, and reserve for the sauce.
Insert a knife-sharpening steel (one probably came with your knife set) or the handle of a wooden spoon into the thick end of each tenderloin. Carefully push steel/spoon all the way through, rolling the meat to widen hole slightly. Use half the stuffing to fill the hole in each tenderloin. Seal ends with toothpicks.
In a large, non-stick skillet, on medium-high, heat oil. Season meat with pepper (and salt, if you must), and saute tenderloins, turning often, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook, turning often, for 10 minutes longer or until thermometer reads 160 degrees.
Transfer meat to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, add reserved wine to skillet and cook over medium-high, scraping up any browned bits. Add chicken broth and cook until reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Stir in reserved fruit mixture. Taste for seasonings and adjust.
To serve, cut tenderloins into thin slices and place on a heated platter. Drizzle on some of the sauce. Serve remaining sauce on the side. Makes 6 or more servings.
Wild mushrooms add earthy flavor to this quasi-Asian treatment for tenderloin. In this one, we slice the pork before cooking it.
Try a basmati rice pilaf (add sauteed minced carrots, snow peas and scallion to cooking water) and fresh pineapple as go-withs.
1 cup reduced fat/sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons dry sherry
6 tablespoons catsup
4 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste or hot sauce (Tabasco)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar
4 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
2 (12-ounce) pork tenderloins, thinly sliced crosswise
About 1/4 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 and 1/4 pounds wild mushrooms (e.g. oyster and shiitake, stemmed, thinly sliced)
6 large scallions, in 1-inch lengths
For the sauce, in a medium bowl, whisk together chicken broth, soy sauce, wine, catsup, sugar, chile-garlic paste, vinegar and 2 teaspoons of the cornstarch. Keep handy.
On a work surface, place remaining cornstarch. Season pork tenderloins with pepper, then toss with cornstarch.
In a large, non-stick skillet, over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil until shimmering. Add pork in a single layer (in batches, if need be) and fry, undisturbed, until nearly cooked but still pink in center, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer pork to a plate.
Add remaining peanut oil to skillet and heat until just smoking. Add mushrooms and scallions, and just a pinch of salt, stir and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Return pork, and any accumulated juices to skillet and toss with mushrooms and scallions. Stir chicken broth mixture and add to mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook until thickened, about 30 sections. Serve at once. Makes 6 or more servings.