Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Veg

So I've had this pork tenderloin in the fridge for almost a week, and tonight was probably the only time I ever would have had to make a proper dinner.  Between work, school, and moving apartments, I've spent too much time and money eating out or just eating crap instead of actually cooking.  So tonight at around 8:30, I decided I was hungry, remembered the pork loin, and immediately started to freak out because I didn't think I had time to cook it properly.

Wrong I was.

This pork loin tastes like you've been marinating it for hours, but it takes only about 40 minutes to cook, from start to finish.  The secret is in the spice, a thick rub that seals in the juices, flavors the meat, and magically transforms into a juicy sauce in the oven, perfect for drizzling.

I started by trimming the pork loin.  The tenderloin that I bought was a little over 2 lbs, but when I took it out of the plastic wrap, I found that the butcher had cut it in half down the middle, so I actually had two 1-lb loins.  Bummer.  But no worries, I just wrapped one of them up (after trimming the fat and silverskin) and popped it in the freezer for later.  I knew I wouldn't have leftovers, but I didn't really want to microwave a perfectly cooked pork loin the next day, either.

Next, I made the rub.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again... I don't like recipes.  Especially for spice rubs.  For this one, I just opened my well-stocked spice cabinet and grabbed a little of this and a little of that.  I ended up using a teaspoon of each: sea salt, minced onion, garlic powder, garam masala, cumin, and paprika. I also have this badass spice grinder that I found in a discount store... it's Chinese Five-Spice, which is one of my favorite seasonings, but all the components are whole, so you can freshly grind as much as you need, when you need it.  I ground a little of this into my spice mix (I didn't measure, I just grinded until my elbow was sore) and mixed up the whole shebang.  I will say this: when experimenting with a spice blend, it can't hurt to taste a little bit on a wet fingertip.  You know when you finish a bag of potato chips and you stick your finger into the corner to get the last of the seasoning?  It will taste like that, a little potent, but not unpalatable.  If it tastes like you'd like to have it on potato chips, you've made it right.

Clockwise from the salt: cumin, paprika, garam masala, minced onion, and garlic

I rubbed the pork loin with some olive oil (roll up your sleeves and really massage that baby) and sprinkled all sides with my spice rub, patting it in and making sure the loin was totally covered, with no meat showing through.

I wanted to get a good sear in a pan first, to seal in the juices, so I lubed up a large skillet at high heat and I cooked the loin for 2 minutes on each side (there being 4 sides and not only 2... we are working in 3-D, people).

Nice and crusty

Next, I placed the loin on a foil-lined roasting pan and roasted at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the temperature reads 155 degrees on a meat thermometer.  (Really, folks, I feel like the food police will come and get me if I say this, but I only cooked mine to 130 degrees.  I don't want to hear anything about what temperature meat should be cooked to, because no matter what, I believe that it's better to undercook than overcook anything.  And that includes poultry.  But if you like rubber pork, go ahead and cook it to 155.)

Meanwhile, I sliced up some butternut squash and cut some cauliflower florets (okay, I did the prep yesterday, but I won't count that extra time), tossed them with some olive oil and leftover spice blend, and spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet.  The pork and the veg go in the oven at the same time.  When the pork was done, I left the veggies in the oven and pulled the pork loin out of the oven, and basted it.  Basted.

Baste:  Did I ever tell you that I make my own chicken broth?  Well, I do.  All the time.  Every time I cook a chicken in the crock pot, I always return the skin and bones to the pot and add about 5 cups of water.  I cook that baby on high for about 8-10 hours, or until the bones are bleached, strain it, and freeze it in ice cube trays.  I use that broth to make soup, rice, mashed potatoes, what have you.  I also use it to baste pork.

Take about 20 broth-ice-cubes and throw them in your skillet, the one you cooked the pork in.  You should have left it on high.  Whisk that melted broth for about 10 minutes on high, and you should have a gorgeous reduced fake semi glace.  It's too strong to use as a sauce at this point, but it can be used to....

Baste.  Baste and cover immediately with tin foil and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.  While your pork rests, your veggies begin to caramelize (which is a magic moment), and by the time the pork is cool enough to touch (but just!), your veggies are ready to pull out of the oven.  Slice the pork loin into medallions and top with sauce from the bottom of the foil pouch.  Serve while veggies are piping hot.

When the cauliflower is nice and brown, it's done

I served this to my boyfriend, our roommate, and a friend of ours, and every last bite was devoured gleefully within seconds.  The pork was unbelievably moist and juicy, and the flavor was out of this world... nothing like so many bland pork loins I've had previously.  The roasted veggies, seasoning with the same as I used to spice the pork, complemented the meat perfectly, and were creamy and crispy at the same time... like roasted marshmallows!  (If marshmallows were good for you)

Anyway, now I'm totally excited about that leftover loin that I froze... I might make this tomorrow.  Or tonight, while sleepwalking.  Because this pork is dreamy.

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