Pork tenderloin is one of the most tender cuts of meat. This is a long, thin cut of pork that stems from the central spine of the pig.
At the end of the day, a cut of meat is practically useless unless its prepared properly and paired with complementary foods. When this is done, pork tenderloin can be enjoyed in many different settings, such as tailgates, parties, and weddings.
In this article, we discuss one of our favorite pork tenderloin recipes, walking people through its creation step by step. After explaining how we cook the tenderloin, we discuss some accompanying foods that can really enhance your experience of the meat. Towards the end of the article, we offer our thoughts on the future of pork tenderloins.
Prepping the Pork Tenderloin for Cooking
The first thing we do is pre-heat the oven for a roast by setting it to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. We put a cast-iron skillet in the oven without anything in it, as this will allow the skillet to heat up as well. This will allow the tenderloin to start cooking the second we drop it in the skillet, allowing for a quick, smooth roast.
Next, we create a marinade from some pungent herbs and spices. We put the following ingredients in a large bowl:
We mix these ingredients in our bowl to evenly distribute them. Then we take our pork tenderloin and cut off any fatty or unwanted sections. Then, we place the tenderloin in the bowl and spread our marinade across its entire surface, making sure to massage this mix into the meat.
Then we set our pork tenderloin to the side for a moment. While the oven is still pre-heating, we take a white onion and cut it into relatively large pieces. We then place these on top of the tenderloin, as the juices from the onion will seep into the meat as its being cooked. This will enhance the flavors of the marinade we used while also giving you a delicious roasted onion to eat afterwards.
The caramelization of the onion that occurs due to the heat will also infuse your tenderloin with an intense sweetness that will complement the sauce that we pour over it. When the oven is sufficiently heated, we put our meat and onions in the heated skillet and let the roasting begin.
Prepping the Complementary Vegetables
Eating this piece of meat on its own would likely be too much for most people. Some simply cooked vegetables would be ideal in order to balance out the tenderloin and give people a diversity of tastes and textures.
We like to use asparagus and sweet potatoes for this recipe, as we think the nuttiness of the asparagus and sweetness of the sweet potatoes will complement the sesame oil and caramelized onions.
We usually steam our sweet potatoes, as this helps retains the roots’ water. This will prevent the sweet potatoes from drying out and offering a compromised taste. Steaming them will also make them healthier, as a lower heat is used. This helps preserves many of the sweet potato’s beneficial properties, like its high amount of Vitamin A.
To do this, we wash 1 medium sized sweet potato and then cut it into thin pieces, as this will make the steam faster. We leave the skin on, as this is where much of the taste and nutrition lies. You can always eat around the skin once their done steaming if the texture doesn’t appeal to you. You should at least leave the skins on during cooking, as this will maximize the health of the root.
We also like to steam our asparagus, allowing us to kill two birds with one stone. We rarely cut our asparagus, as steaming it in its whole form will create the ideal texture and shape for pairing with your long cut of pork tenderloin. We usually use about 6-7 stalks of asparagus per recipe.
In order to steam your vegetables, just put them in a steamer basket and then put this steamer basket inside a pot. You should fill the pot of water with about an inch of water. Then, turn up the stove to high heat. Once the water starts boiling and sufficient steam has filled up the pot, then we turn the heat down to low and let the pot sit covered for about 10 minutes.
Turning the Pork Tenderloin After 10 Minutes
After the pork tenderloin has cooked for about 10-12 minutes, we recommend opening the oven and flipping the piece of meat. This gives the meat a delicious crust and allows it to cook more evenly.
We also reduce the temperature down to 400 degrees Fahrenheit at this time in order to slow down the roasting process. This allows the flavors of the sesame oil, onions, herbs, and spices to really infuse into the tenderloin and give it a complex profile.
Checking on the tenderloin after about 10 minutes will also give you a preview for how it will taste, as the flavors should be developing a strong profile by this point. If you are dissatisfied with the smells, then you can always add some balancing substance to the skillet.
For example, if the meat smells too garlicky, you can always add some freshly squeezed lemon juice and lime juice to the mix. This will calm the garlic while also giving the dish citrusy undertones.
Alternatively, some people smell the meat at 10 minutes in and suddenly realize that the dish needs more spice. In this sense, you could add a finely chopped jalapeno pepper to the mix in order to give the pork tenderloin a smoky, peppery flavor.
Making the Sauce for the Pork Tenderloin
While your potatoes and asparagus are steaming, and your tenderloin is roasting, we recommend making a very simple sauce that you can pour over your meat when it’s done. To make this sauce, we put the following ingredients in a blender:
We blend this into a smooth texture results and then we stick it in the refrigerator until our meat and vegetables are done cooking.
Finalizing the Pork Tenderloin Dish
After about 25 minutes of cooking, we take the pork tenderloin out of the oven. We verify that the tenderloin is done cooking by checking its temperature at its thickest part. This should be around 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit and there should be a slight hint of pink.
The sweet potatoes might take longer than the asparagus to sufficiently cook depending on how tender you like your asparagus. If you like your asparagus very tender, then you might consider leaving them in the pot the entire time the sweet potatoes cook. If you prefer your asparagus much more robust, then we recommend taking them out after about 5-7 minutes of steaming.
Once everything is perfectly tender and primed for eating, we place our tenderloin in the middle of our plate, keeping the onions, herbs, spices, oils, and juices in the skillet for now. Then we add our sweet potatoes and asparagus to the dish, drizzling these vegetables with the leftover brine in our skillet.
Then, we pour some of our homemade sauce over the steak, letting it run down the sizes and seep into our sweet potatoes and asparagus.
The final cherry on top is not actually a cherry but rather an ume plum, namely pureed ume plum that has been fermented with shiso leaves and sea salt. This can be found at many local health food stores. The company Eden makes a particularly popular ume plum puree that you can use.
We usually add about a tablespoon of this ume plum puree to the top of our tenderloin. It will quickly dissolve and merge with our homemade sauce, giving many of your bites a strong, tangy taste.
Our Final thoughts on Pork Tenderloins
This is one of our favorite dishes for wintertime tailgates, as the warming presence of the ginger and cinnamon are much appreciated amidst the brutally cold conditions.
We especially love the sauce that suffuses the dish in a rich sweetness. This sauce will only be as good as the mango that you use, as a mediocre, bland mango will really compromise this sauce. On the other hand, a perfectly ripe, seasonal mango could really enhance this dish in a powerful way.
We think pork tenderloins will eventually become obsolete to eat despite their deliciousness. We think the world is moving towards a plant-based diet, which excludes the consumption of animal products. Animals products include not only the actual meat of animals but also any product produced from animal parts like milk, eggs, and cheese.
Luckily, there are a ton of plant-based alternatives to these items, like this vegan cheese recipe made from cultured cashews.
All of this is to say that you should really enjoy this recipe now, as eating animal flesh might no longer be socially, ethically, nutritionally, or politically accepted in the future.