Pork Tenderloin Know-How

The challenge with a pork tenderloin roast is adding interest to a cut of meat that has little fat (and thus little built-in flavor). But when done right, pork tenderloin is not just tender (hence the name) but also buttery smooth. And, because of its petite size, it makes a perfect for a dinner for two.

And here’s a little by-the-way side note: A 3-ounce serving of pork tenderloin is an excellent source of protein, thiamine, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and niacin. It’s also a good source of riboflavin, potassium, and zinc. Being so low in fat, it’s a smart meat addition to build a menu around.

Leftover pork tenderloin is perfect for pork fried rice, taco filling, stroganoff, pork and noodle bake, spicy jambalaya, spaghetti, pork and potato hash, pork pot pie, pork pita wraps, pork chop suey, mashed potato pork gravy, and pork and vegetable chow mein (just to name a few uses). This versatile meat is dependent only on your imagination.

Experienced cooks usually sear the tenderloin first to brown the exterior and add flavor. I’ve done this myself with great success. But there’s another method of preparation that’s making the rounds. Instead of the standard browning, a spice rub is used instead. This approach still adds great flavor AND it saves time (and dirties fewer pans) by skipping the initial stop on the stovetop.

The idea is to use a rub of Herbs de Provence (a widely available blend of dried herbs, such as thyme, fennel seed, and rosemary). From here, place the rubbed pork roast on a bed of vegetables (fennel, tomatoes, and artichokes would be divine) that would cook through in the brief time that the meat needed to reach optimal internal temperature.

The folks that have tried this pork tenderloin presentation are raving—they’re loving how this dish works well as either a casual meal or an elegant dinner. Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Fennel, Tomatoes, and Artichokes: a one-dish wonder, and one we ought to try this summer!

And now, if you do decide to give this delicious idea a try, here’s a quick primer from America’s Test Kitchen on the easiest way to prepare fennel:

Don’t throw away those feathery fronds. Chopped them up and mix them into pestos, salsas, stocks, curries, and vinaigrettes. This is delicious and adds a distinct hit of freshness. You can also use them to top yogurt dips, eggs, stir-fries, toasts, and seared meats. And they're delicious when tossed into green salads or strewn on top of all sorts of roasted vegetables (especially Brussels sprouts).

And another side note: We ought to be using more fennel. Besides great flavor, it’s loaded with fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and phytonutrients. Coupled with its lack of cholesterol, it’s a terrific support for heart health.

Pork tenderloin is a great meat with lots of potential—it just takes a little know-how to give it some flavor pizazz. Now if you’re interested in expanding your pork tenderloin repertoire, here’s a wonderful recipe you can use on any leftovers (OR designate a tenderloin just to this recipe—it’s that good!).

Greek Style Pork Pita Wraps


1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 3/4 teaspoons minced garlic divided
1 1/2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
1 pound pork tenderloin
1 cup peeled and seeded chopped cucumbers
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 cup chopped green onions
pita bread

1. In a large zip top bag, combine lemon juice, oil, mustard, 1 1/4 tsp of the garlic, and the oregano.
2. Add the pork loin, seal the bag, and turn to coat.
3. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
4. In a bowl, combine the cucumber, yogurt, salt, dill, and remaining garlic.
5. Cover and chill till serving time.
6. Heat oven to 400°.
7. Place pork in pan lined with foil, or sprayed with non-stick spray.
8. Bake for 10 minutes, then brush with remaining marinade.
9. Bake for 15 minutes more, then check temperature with meat thermometer.
10. Temperature should be 160° (slightly pink).
11. Bake longer if necessary.
12. Split the pita so you have 2 rounds.
13. Place some sliced pork in the center, top with yogurt sauce, green onions; roll up.
14. Or if you prefer, slice off the pita top, and put meat and sauce into the pocket.

Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises.

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author! alice@dvo.com

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