Yes, this is normally a political blog, and yes, it is still election season. A pandemic has forced upon many of us the Great Time Out, and many of us are taking a break from our regular routines whether we want to or not.
For those who are “essential” in this crisis: Bless you for what you are doing. For those of us with time on our hands and groceries in the fridge, I suggest cooking. It relaxes me.
With that preamble done, let’s transition to the matter at hand. I started this on Facebook yesterday, and this platform allows me to go into a bit more detail and post pictures in sequence along the way, so I’ll conclude the contest here. The question was posed as to which preparation for a pork tenderloin would be better. I’ve now cooked both. The recipes, such as they are, are herein.
Let’s get a few basics out of the way for those who may be less experienced in some of these matters. First, pork tenderloins are generally sold two to a package. Thus, a roughly 2.5 pound tenderloin at the grocery store is usually going to be about two 1.25 lb pieces of meat. (A pork loin is not the same cut, is larger, and is usually sold one to a package.)
While I’ve had success with grilling tenderloins (and would use the same rubs/sauces that follow), for this method I’ve used a sous-vide. You may know of this method from the Bradley Cooper movie Burnt, but I became intrigued mostly from Facebook conversations between Representative Teri Anulewicz and former Rep John Pezold. You know, the cool kids.
Sous-vide cooking allows for a lot of flexibility in time. For cuts of meat like pork tenderloin or items like shrimp, it’s really easy to overcook something while trying to put an entire meal on the table. A sous-vide gets the dish to the right temperature and stops it there. It’s very close to perfection with minimal hassle.
One additional caveat: If you’re a competition BBQ purist and you didn’t turn off already at the method I’ve chosen, I’m going to make it worse for you. As I was once told by a regular reader prior to a competition, don’t confuse what you would cook for friends with what scores points for judges. The opposite is true here as well. While the quality of the pork turned out great, the sauces are the differentiators here. Hearing that will make a BBQ judge wince, but that’s not what we’re doing here.
So, we have two preparations. I had tried variations on the first many times, as it originated years ago as a grilled pork loin. Given that I’m the only one that would be eating any of this, I saw the opportunity having two tenderloins to create some variety in my leftovers, and invented a different rub and then sauce for the second tenderloin. I tried the new one last night, and just finished the first serving of the original recipe tonight. Results follow.
Caribbean Pork Tenderloin: Tried and true.
This one gets it’s name because the base of the rub is a jerk seasoning under Kroger’s brand name. It’s also marinaded with items such as mangos, pineapple, and lime juice.
Start with your dry rub. Sprinkle liberally (or at least in moderation) the loin with the jerk seasoning. Then go back just a slight bit lighter with black pepper. Not pictured is cinnamon, but you want a decent spray of that as well. When you’re done, pour out maybe 1/4 cup of brown sugar and heavily rub the pork until the spices are all mingled, while letting any excess brown sugar fall off.
Place the pork loin in a gallon sized freezer bag and set aside. (I don’t tend to use vacuum seal bags on these because wet marinades tend to mess up the vacuum and there’s enough weight to a marinated tenderloin that any air pockets don’t tend to lift it out of the water bath.)
Next, you’re ready to start the marinade. Get a blender ready, and slice two mangos. You don’t know how to do that, do you? Here’s a Youtube on it, but mangos have a center pit. Slice off the outer two thirds and cut down to the skins to make squares. Peel from the inside, and remove all those squares into the blender.
Next, I would usually core a fresh pineapple, but didn’t have one on hand. Canned pineapple will do. Open and empty one 20oz can of pineapple with juice into the blender. Now add a heavy splash of lime juice, anywhere from 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup should be fine. Now add 1 tablespoon cinnamon, and about 1/4 cup brown sugar. Blend until smooth.
Pour half of this mixture into the bag with the pork loin, reserve the rest in the fridge for the sauce to come. Let the pork loin marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, up to overnight.
When ready to cook, submerge the air tight bag containing the tenderloin in a sous vide at 140 degrees. Let cook for at least 2 hours.
About 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, prepare to make the sauce and to sear the pork tenderloin. 1) Remove the marinade reserve from the fridge, and prepare a skillet with a half stick of butter, melting. Add the marinade at low heat and stir occasionally. 2) Heat a large cast iron skillet with some low-smoke oil (I prefer grape seed oil) on med-high. 3) Put about 1/3 cup spiced rum in a long handled sauce pan that can handle flame.
Remove the tenderloin from the waterbath and then from the bag itself, discarding marinade. Sear the loin on each side about one minute, turning as needed to get all surface areas. Remove to cutting board.
When ready to go, cut the heat up on the butter/marinade until it begins to bubble. While continuing to stir, heat the rum until it just begins to boil, then quickly remove from heat. Pour into the cooking marinade mixture, then light with a grill starter – being careful not to be standing over it if you like your eyebrows the way they are.
Now slice the tenderloin and prepare to experience goodness.
Plate the meat, top with sauce, and oh-my, this one is good. It will definitely play to your sweeter taste buds.
We’ll ignore the sides paired with this dish, as this was actually “round two” of the competition. All in all, a solid and reliable effort with few surprises.
Chili Rub Pork Tenderloin: The new kid on the block.
Sometimes when you’re cooking, it’s all about following your instincts while utilizing what’s on hand. The best cooks I know turn into MacGyver when they enter a kitchen. Yesterday, I decided to throw some random spices together and then while the tenderloin was in the sous-vide, came up with an idea for a salsa verde cream sauce. It was this rub that resonated with most that weighed in on Facebook, and it was a pleasant surprise. Dare I say, outstanding.
The rub for this one was relatively simple. A heavy coating of garlic powder and black pepper, followed by a heavy sprinkling of chili powder, cumin, and turmeric. The loin was then placed in a ziplock freezer bag and topped with half of a 16oz jar of Salsa Verde. It immediately went into a sous vide for 2 hours at 140 degrees, as I didn’t have time to let it marinate. It didn’t suffer for it.
About 20 minutes before ready to serve, combine about 1/3 cup sour cream, 1 jar salsa verde, and a can of green chilis. You’ll also want to heat up your cast iron skillet to sear the the tenderloin (using grape seed or other low smoke oil) after you get the cream sauce started.
I started with a half bottle of salsa, but the sour cream was too much. As I added more salsa and it cooked down, it greened up a bit from this picture.
As with the first tenderloin above, when ready to serve, remove the bag from the water bath, then remove the tenderloin from the bag and discard the marinade. Sear all around in a cast iron skillet.
Remove after about 1 minute per side to your cutting board, and prepare to be amazed.
This one was served with the salsa verde cream sauce, then a slight drizzle of Sriracha. The rub complemented the sauce, and the Sriracha was the perfect kick. Also plated were cauliflower mashed with pepper jack and cheddar cheese, and black beans.
So who is the winner here? The Caribbean Pork Tenderloin recipe is one I’ve been playing around with for a decade. It’s solid, it’s comfortable, and it’s about where I want it. The Chili Rub recipe is new, and the sauce to go with it has many possibilities beyond this recipe. One is a trusted friend, one is new and flashy.
Who is the winner? Well, me. I got to eat both of them, and have seconds of each left in the fridge.
Update: Because “some people” **cough, Joan Carr, cough, Tricia Melvin** must have a “clear winner”, I will add the following:
For my palate, the challenger (Chili Rub) brings heat, and I like spicy. If I was serving 8 people, I would probably have at least 2 that would find it too strong or even offensive. The old standard (Caribbean) is the safe option that’s still excellent, providing that the guests will eat pork.
Publisher of GeorgiaPol.com
UGA & GSU degrees in Economics
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Interests are public policy solutions in Education, Science & Medicine, and Transportation that keep GA competitive and a great place to live.