Pork tenderloin has always struck me as an odd cut of meat. It is cylindrical in shape, which makes it a bit of a challenge to cook evenly. Second, it has a very mild taste...as in vanilla...beige...boring. It is quite common to serve pork tenderloin with a powerful sauce made from port and cherries...a way to put some flashy scarlet lipstick on that there pig.
Leave it to my favorite cooking people, Cook's Illustrated, to solve the problem of the cylindrical pork (to subscribe, go here: www.cooksillustrated.com). The answer is obvious, but not apparent...until they solved the puzzle. When you grill, the greater the surface area, the greater the flavor. A cylinder is highly inefficient when it comes to surface area. The solution? Grab your meat mallet and pound that cylinder into a flat steak.
Thanks to the mallet, a flattened tenderloin has 30% more surface area than the cylinder. It also becomes breeze to have the meat cook evenly. And we are going to kill the beige by enlisting a flavor boost in the form of a marinade. And because of that last point, do not buy "enhanced" pork tenderloin. You will be adding the moisture, naturally, so you don't need the processor enhancing the pork with chemicals. This recipe serves four.
2, 1-pound pork tenderloins
1 tablespoon lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice (2 limes)
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons fish sauce (Red Boat recommended)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Flake sea salt (optional)
- Slice each tenderloin in half crosswise to create 4 steaks total. Pound each half to 3/4-inch thickness. Using sharp knife, cut 1/8-inch-deep slits spaced 1/2 inch apart in crosshatch pattern on both sides of steaks.
- Whisk lime zest and juice, garlic, honey, fish sauce, salt, and pepper together in large bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle oil into lime mixture until smooth and slightly thickened. Transfer 1/2 cup lime mixture to small bowl and whisk in mayonnaise; set aside sauce. Add steaks to bowl with remaining marinade and toss thoroughly to coat; transfer steaks and marinade to large zipper-lock bag, press out as much air as possible, and seal bag. Let steaks sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.
- Prepare grill for cooking over both direct and indirect heat. If using charcoal, hot coals are used under half of the grill and no coals under the other half.
- Clean and oil cooking grate. Remove steaks from marinade (do not pat dry) and place over hotter part of grill. Cook, uncovered, until well browned on first side, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip steaks and cook until well browned on second side, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer steaks to cooler part of grill, with wider end of each steak facing hotter part of grill. Cover and cook 4 minutes longer. Transfer steaks to carving board and let rest for 5 minutes.
- While steaks rest, microwave reserved sauce until warm, 15 to 30 seconds; stir in cilantro. Drizzle steaks with half of sauce; sprinkle with sea salt, if using; and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.
Wine pairing: Zinfandel