Monday, March 2, 2009

Tuscan Pork Tenderloin

Do you get into a cooking rut? I know I do. I make the same few things over and over again. While they are admittedly tasty, there are only so many times you can eat crescent chicken pillows before you want to huck one of the offending pillows out a window. Pork loin is another one. We love a crocked and cranberry-sauced pork tenderloin recipe that came compliments of my friend Beth O. But, whenever I pull a loin out of the freezer, that's my one go-to recipe. It's absolutely delicious and I promise to post the recipe, but not today. Last night, I was looking for something a little different. The thawing loin sat on the counter and I came across a Cooking Light recipe that was worthy of a try. I adapted it (slightly) to suit the ingredients I had on hand. Here is that adaptation.

Tuscan Pork Tenderloin
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper, coarsely ground
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1.5-pound) pork tenderloin

1. Preheat oven to 500.
2. Combine oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, lime, fennel and garlic in a small bowl. Rub rosemary mixture onto pork. Set pork on baking rack that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
3. Bake at 500° for 17 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155°. Let pork stand 10 minutes. Cut pork crosswise into 12 slices.

Lessons Learned: I used a Smithfield brand marinated pork tenderloin. I don't know if the moistness of the meat can be attributed to the pre-packaged pepper and garlic marinade, but this loin was perfectly moist and had a very nice crust on top. I had to bake it about 20 minutes to get it up to temperature. In my version, I omitted the pepper since the marinade already had plenty. Since I love garlic, I saw no need to cut back on that. It's really important to let the loin rest for 10 minutes. Like with steak, that 10-minute resting period allows all the juices that have flowed to the edges of the meat to settle back into the middle, creating the decadent moistness that made this dish so good.
Don't question the oven temperature. It's that high heat that helps create the crust. Anything lower and you'll end up with a lackluster outer coating.
One more thing, if you're wondering about portion sizes, the original recipe said three slices constituted a serving. The original also had a balsamic-glazed bed of endives and shallots for the loin to rest on as it bakes. Since I didn't have either, I just used a roasting rack. It worked for me.

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