Food Gold: Pork Tenderloin with Walnut Vinaigrette

Posted on Sep 29th, 2009 in Food Gold by Elliot Aronow


Image by Derek Erdman

Cookers! For this week’s edition of Food Gold I’m going to post a recipe I tried out last week and add some helpful suggestions for all you home cookz out there. And since I just got done fasting for Jewish holidays, I figured there would be no better intro dish to riff on then a pan seared Pork Tenderloin finished with a really simple and clean Walnut Vinaigrette. Let’s go!

Pork Tenderloin is one of my favorite proteins. It’s inexpensive, relatively lean and super flavorful when you marry it to a nice pan sauce. Most new cooks will tend to overcook this cut, mostly because they are working under the false assumption that since it is a pork product, it’s rich and fatty. WRONG! The key to a moist and flavorful loin is to not overcook it and to really pay attention to the internal temperature of le meat (more on that below.)

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, do yourself a favor and cop one. They are only about ten bucks and as you will see, they can mean the different between a show stopping all star “get you laid” dish and a dry, rubbery and sad pig.

Here’s the basic equipment you will need aside from stuff like measuring cups and a Pyrex (shout out to Clipse):

1 heavy cast iron skillet, at least 10″ wide (make sure it is oven proof!) I recommend Le Creuset, the Technics 1200s of cast iron cookwear. Invest now and it will pay off!

1 meat thermometer

1 food processor

And here are the ingredients courtesy of Epicurious:

  • 1 1/4 pound pork tenderloin
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted, divided
  • *2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped *just two
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 3 medium Belgian endives, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces

Below is the Epicurious recipe with my suggestions and riffs in italics:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

2. Pat pork dry and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a 12-inch ovenproof heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then brown pork on all sides, about 6 minutes total.

A helpful hint to check if your oil is a hot enough is to wiggle the pan and see if the oil moves in waves, rather than in splotches. You can also drop in a breadcrumb. It should sizzle as soon as hits the pan. I usually heat the skillet without any oil in it for about 2 minutes before adding any oil. This is generally a good method for browning any protein. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to season this dude with a liberal amount of salt. I recommend using finely ground sea salt, the coarse stuff tends to clump up and give you aggressively salty patches.

Now, the reason you want to pat the meat dry before you brown it is so you can achieve a nice golden sear on it. If there is excess water, the pork will steam rather than sear and you will wind up with a yucky gray exterior, rather than a crisp caramel/golden brown one.

3. Transfer pork in skillet to oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 145 to 150°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes.

In any recipe that calls for an internal temperature, you can pretty much ignore the time recommended since every oven/cut of meat is different. You should ONLY go by the internal temp and check it often, about every four minutes. This is a critical step. As for the standing time, this is to allow the juices to recede back into the loin. They will in fact leak out if you slice it up right away so be patient and let nature be the artist here.

4. While pork stands, add vinegar to skillet (be careful; handle will be very hot) and boil, scraping up any brown bits, until slightly reduced, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a heatproof measuring cup and add enough olive oil to bring total to 3/4 cup liquid.

Not much to add here. Just know that this method is called deglazing and is your ticket to a rich pan sauce. What this does is basically combine the meat juices with whatever liquid you are adding, which in this case is red wine vinegar.You want to extract every bit of flavor that you can from that meat that you paid good money for, so don’t sleep on scraping up all those bits.

5. Pulse 3/4 cup walnuts with garlic, water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to a coarse paste in a food processor. With motor running, slowly add oil mixture to make vinaigrette.

Let me save you from a big mistake that I have made too many times and remind you that raw garlic is NO JOKE and can easily overpower any dish when not used in the correct quantities. It’s no biggie to add more garlic to a recipe if you are briefly sauteing it, as that mellows out the flavor, but in a case like this when it is being used uncooked for a dressing, don’t wild out and add a clove or two extra. You will not be happy.

6. Toss arugula and endive with just enough vinaigrette to coat, then divide among plates. Top with thin slices of pork and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette. Crumble remaining 1/4 cup walnuts over pork.

And that’s it!

As a bonus beat, you can serve this with a lovey side I stole from Adam Rapaport at GQ, runny polenta. It’s super easy. Just cook up polenta according to the box’s directions and add twice as much liquid, with all of that extra liquid being whole milk. You wind up with a creamy, porridge-like starch that is PERFECT for soaking up all those amazing pork juices that you will have to spare since you didn’t overcook the meat.

Enjoy and let me know how this works out for y’all!

Fork The World

Elliot

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