Roasted pork tenderloin sounded (and tasted) like the perfect dinner last night. Tender, juicy and well-seasoned, these tenderloins were a delight. Sauced lightly with the roasting juices, they were complimented by a tight pile of lemony spinach and positioned on top a creamy spoonful of fennel, apple and celery root puree.
I marinated the pork tenderloins in lemon juice, zest, garlic, rosemary, thyme and Dijon mustard. The marinade was whisked together like a salad dressing and I let the tenderloin soak for a couple of hours happily in the fridge. The tenderloin, naturally a low-flavored meat, became rich and robust - zesty even. Two tenderloins, each about one pound, could easily feed four people. We barely ate one.
As the tenderloin was roasting in the oven, I turned on the television. America's Test Kitchen was on some obscure channel and I eagerly tuned in. And coincidentally, they were making a maple and bourbon glazed tenderloin. The glaze was syrupy thick and carefully lacquered on the pork in separate layers. And one difference from my tenderloin: the crucial initial sear. I couldn't believe I had forgotten that step! Searing meat is a sure-fire way to seal in flavor and introduce the tenderloin to a traditional crust. I simply placed the tenderloins in a heavy bottomed casserole and let them roast away at 350 degrees. America's Test Kitchen, also, after the initial sear, roasted the meat for about 20 minutes maximum.
I jumped up from the couch and ran to the oven - the tenderloins had been roasting away for 45 minutes while I sat oblivious on the couch. I tested the temperature - 160 degrees! Opps. Ideal temperature for roasted pork is 140 degrees. I tented the casserole with a layer of foil and returned to the couch, satisfied I'd saved the pork. She gave one more helpful hint: do not tent the pork as it will continue to steam and grow tough. Again, the same routine. I ran to the kitchen and removed the foil. But the draping of the foil was actually a help - this mistake resulted in a moist pan sauce. The moisture created by the foil licked up the pan drippings, creating a simple pan sauce, without the bother of whisking in stock.
But even after all of my mistakes, the pork forgave me, which resulted in a savory and restaurant-quality dinner. It was not over-cooked and instead, I'd wager perfect.
Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Adapted from Ina Garten's Herb Roasted Tenderloin recipe and America's Test Kitchen Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin recipe
2 lbs pork tenderloins (2 pieces)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1/2 tablespoon thyme, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Whisk together the marinade ingredients (with the exception of the vegetable oil) in a plastic bowl or small casserole. Remove the silver skin and additional fat from the tenderloins using a paring knife. The silver skin is the spandexy clear material that coats the surface of the pork. Remove this the best you can with your knife as it will just make your meat tough. Add the tenderloins to the marinade and evenly coat, using tongs. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 6 - 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and just under the smoking point. Add the tenderloins to the skillet, curving them if space is tight. Brown on all sides for 8 - 10 minutes. Place the tenderloins in an oven-safe casserole or roasting pan and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meat is at least 140 degrees. Remove from the oven and tent with foil to keep warm.
The tenting will allow the tenderloin to remain moist and add moisture to any pan drippings, which will then create a pan sauce that you can spoon on top of the sliced meat. When ready, remove the foil and thinly slice the meat into rounds with a sharp chef's knife or carving knife. Top with pan sauce.