I love pork. I love it in soup, in barbecue, in sandwiches, and basically any way it's prepared in a restaurant. At home I'm most successful with cooking pork when it involves slow cooking somehow, whether in the Crock Pot or in soup. (And I'm talking about cuts of pork rather than, say, bacon or ham.) Otherwise, it tends to be tough rather than tender, and is always just a little bit disappointing.
This recipe has shown me what I've done wrong all this time -- I've been overcooking it. According to the recipe, "Pork tenderloin is a very tender and lean cut of pork, and should not be served well done. Pork is completely safe to eat cooked medium, and may be slightly pink in color if cooked properly." I've always been very careful to make sure my pork was well done, because I was raised in the camp of thought that that was the only safe way to cook and eat pork. It's particularly painful for someone who enjoys her beef medium rare, which is why I generally avoid cooking cuts of pork -- I don't really enjoy sawdust in my mouth. I felt very daring the one time I had medium rare pork at El Greco. Now knowing that it's perfectly safe to eat it medium, well -- I won't be avoiding pork cuts anymore, because this was simply wonderful. The meat was tender and flavorful, and it was very simple to prepare.
As for the apple dijon sauce in this recipe, I can take it or leave it. I'm not a huge fan of sweet sauces to begin with, but the combination of the sweetness and the overabundance of rosemary (I like it in small quantities) is a little too much for me. Since the pork was so wonderful just seasoned with salt and pepper, the sauce was, for me, extraneous. If you like sweet sauces and/or rosemary, you might enjoy it a lot more than I did. In the interest of full disclosure I should admit that I used dried rosemary rather than fresh, which is what the recipe calls for, so I might have overdone it.
Rather than searing the meat in a frying pan then transferring it to a roasting pan, I used my new Le Creuset roasting pan right on the stovetop. I heated it up, added the oil, and seared the meat. Then I just placed the whole thing into the oven. If you have a cast iron roasting pan, you can do the same -- otherwise, just follow the directions as they are.
I also didn't use a pork tenderloin. I used pork sirloin, which was on sale at the market when I went. And I had just read this in the latest issue of Gourmet magazine: "Sirloin pork cutlets or chops come from the part of a pig's (very long) loin nearest the hip. The fact that they're inexpensive and naturally dark or two-toned in color doesn't mean that they're of poorer quality than paler loin chops or rib chops. In fact, they are tender, juicy, and full of wonderful flavor. They also behave beautifully during cooking: Both loin and rib chops have a tighter, dense texture that turns bouncy or cottony if cooked a second or so too long; sirloin cuts are much more forgiving."
Now I'm not sure if the tenderness of the meat was due to the cooking method or the fact that I used sirloin! I let it sit out longer than the 10 minutes the recipe suggests, because I made 3 sides and was putting the finishing touches on 2 of them when the sirloin was ready. Gourmet was right though; it must have been extremely forgiving, because they were still great even by the time I got to slicing them.
As for the sides, I made Zuni Cafe's buttermilk mashed potatoes (hey, I had Yukon Golds and buttermilk in the fridge, so why not), broth-boiled kale, and a new recipe for creamed broccoli that I also got from the latest issue of Gourmet. The head of broccoli I used was smaller than the suggested size, so the dish turned out a bit too thin, and next time I will probably just use a sprinkling of nutmeg rather than the full 1/4 tsp it calls for, but was otherwise very tasty -- I'll be making it again, but with a bigger head of broccoli!
Apple Dijon Pork
- 2lbs pork tenderloin or sirloin (about 2 pieces), trimmed of excess fat
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 cups apple cider, or juice
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
- 2 tbsp cold butter
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Season the pork tenderloins well with black pepper and salt to taste.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan, over medium-high heat, until it begins to smoke. Sear the pork on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.
- Turn off the heat, transfer to a shallow baking pan, and place the pan in the oven. Roast the pork for about 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F.
- While the pork is cooking, pour off the excess oil from the frying pan. Place over high heat and add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the vinegar, apple cider, Dijon mustard, and rosemary. Cook until the sauce reduces by about 2/3, and begins to slightly thicken. Turn off the heat and whisk in the cold butter, stirring constantly until the butter is gone. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Remove the pork from the oven and move to a platter. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the warm sauce.
Creamed Broccoli (adapted from Gourmet)
- 1 bunch broccoli (1 1/4 lb)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 3 tbsp grated parmesan
- 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Peel broccoli stems, then corasely chop stems and florets. Cook broccoli in boiling salted water (1 1/2 tsp salt for 4 qt water) until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water to stop cooking. (Note: Broccoli can be boiled 1 day ahead and chilled.)
- Simmer cream, garlic, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a medium saucepan, uncovered, until slightly thickened and reduced to about 2/3 cup, about 5 minutes.
- Add broccoli and simmer, mashing with a potato masher, until coarsely mashed and heated through, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in parmesan and lemon juice.