Saturday, August 21, 2010

All things porcine are good

My love of all things pig-related is well known in some (very small) circles, and it's high time it made an appearance on this blog. While I am prone to snobbery in a lot of things, I am 100% equal opportunity minded when it comes to pork. A friend of mine says that he likes it all, "from the rooter to the tooter!", and I whole heartedly share that opinion. A big, pink, salty eraser of a ham? Yum! Bacon? Better than... ahem, let's just say "chocolate" since my mother reads this blog. Pork tenderloin is the filet mignon of the pig (it's the same cut of meat, relative to the critter in question), and deserves a certain level of reverence. Roast, chops, sausage, and pig's feet are all heartily welcome on my plate.
The primary appeal of pork (to me, anyway), is its tremendous versatility. There's almost always a cheap cut of some sort in your deli counter, and it thrives under as great a variety of flavors and cooking techniques as chicken. And damn near ANY piece of pork will have a far greater depth of flavor than the ubiquitous boneless, skinless chicken boob. (There will doubtless be upcoming rants against that most bland, insipid piece of meat, and the people who insist on eating them, but that's neither here nor there.)
An ex of mine and I had a deeply seated disagreement when it came to pork, and I dare say it was at least a small part of our demise as a couple. He was of the mind that all pork was tough, rubbery, and accompanied by a side of runny applesauce. If that had been my sole experience, I would have likely shared his view, but alas, he was unable to ever come to the terms with the versatility of pig. I chalk that up to a character flaw on his part, and you'd better bet that the next man in line will love the stuff!
After grilling pizzas a couple weeks ago, I'd vowed to use my grill more this summer, and since I was having a friend over for dinner, it seemed the right time to trot out a tried and true recipe...Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Peach Salsa. With just a tiny bit of advance planning, this is the quickest "company dinner" you can imagine, and it's not just delicious, but colorful and lovely to look at. If you've never played with spice rubs, now's the time. They're a quick, easy and calorie-free way to add enormous flavor to meats, and when used in grilling, they become a tasty crust on the critter you're cooking. There are those of you who have an aversion to fruit served with meat...get over it! Pork and apples are a classic (if often poorly done) combination, but breaking out of that mold to add mangoes, peaches or nectarines will enliven even the most simply seasoned chop.
All that being we go!
Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Peach Lime Salsa
For the spice rub:
2 tbsp chile powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried sage
1 1/2 tsp salt
Combine all rub ingredients in a small dish and set aside.
2 pork tenderloins
Olive oil
For the salsa:
2 ripe peaches (or mangoes, nectarines...I just had peaches on hand)
1 large diced tomato
1 diced red onion
1 minced, seeded jalapeno pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley (mint's nice, too)
1 tbsp honey
juice of 1 lime
2 tsp salt
Combine all salsa ingredients in medium sized bowl, and set aside. Can be made up to 2 hours ahead.

  • Butterfly each tenderloin (this means cutting them down the middle, lengthwise, enough so that you can open the piece like a book, without cutting it in two).
  • Realize that cut like this, the tenderloin looks a bit, umm...phallic. Picture your last shitty relationship, and grab a mallet.
  • Place each tenderloin between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, and pound the ever loving crap out of them, until they're about evenly 1" thick. This is a good addition to your current anger management program!
  • Drizzle each piece with olive oil, and rub all over with your spice mixture. Place each tenderloin in a plastic zip-top bag, and pop in the fridge. This can be done the day before, and left in the fridge overnight, or two hours prior to grilling and left at room temp. If you do refrigerate them, bring them out 30 minutes prior to grilling to allow to come to room temp.
  • Prepare your grill for direct cookng over medium-high heat. Oil the grill rack.
  • Grill tenderloins directly over medium-high heat, turning once, until well browned, 4-5 minutes on each side. I refuse to cut into meat to check for doneness, and instead opt for poking at it with trepidation to see if it's reached an appropriate level of doneness. (For pork with a slightly pink interior, the finished meat should feel like muscle between your thumb and index finger...taut, with just a little spring to it.) If you have a thermometer, by all means, use it, and you should be reading 155 degrees F. If you don't, pray for the best, and hope to Christ you don't give your guests trichinosis.
  • Transfer pork to a platter, tent with foil, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

  • To serve, cut against the grain into diagonal slices and serve with the salsa. This is really nice with a side of basmati rice, too.
Makes 4 servings.
We had this with a decent rose of Malbec, which I really like with both pork and grilled fish.
*Thanks to Katie for the food photography!!

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