Balsamic and Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Time: About 30 minutes (depending on how quickly you chop things).
1-1.5 lb. pork tenderloin
About 8 plum tomatoes (Number and type is absolutely flexible.)
5 or so leaves of basil
White wine (Whatever you’re drinkin’!)
Pinch of turmeric—because it’s good for you, and adds something special.
Two cloves of garlic, chopped.
For the glaze:
Tablespoon of EVOO
1/4 cup balsamic vingar
Tablespoon of honey
Salt, pepper to taste
Step one: Start with what you have.
First of all, if you’re glancing at this recipe and there’s something you don’t have, who cares. I’ve figured out that most recipes have several essentials: a fat, an acid, a protein, sometimes something green, and sometimes something starchy.
This is at least what works for me. Don’t have olive oil? Use butter, just keep a closer eye on it since it heats up quickly, and remember that your recipe will be a bit richer. Ain’t no thing. Don’t have basil? Any fresh herbs are delicious. Getting to know ingredients on their own will give you the freedom to learn from recipes, while also seeing them simply as a suggestion. You know how things taste, trust that. And then imagine them all mixing together.
Last night we had an abundance of plum tomatoes in our garden ready to go, and our basil plant is finally starting to look like a basil plant. So though I normally make this recipe with a dry spice rub, this is what we had, so this is what we made.
The honey is from Cape May, where we just returned from, and so it doesn’t have the fate of our other old jars of honey—I am going to cook with it as much as possible. Honey glazed everything. Lastly, some friends of ours recently joined an olive oil club and have more balsamic and olive oil than they know what to do with, so essentially, this is where this recipe came from. Make it work with what you have.
1. Combine balsamic, EVOO, salt and pepper in bowl. Prepare pork tenderloin (see below), and roll in glaze. Set aside.
2. Pour wine. Turn on cooking tunes. If you’re a slob like me, grab apron.
3. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
4. In a crockpot, heat up 1-2 tablespoons of EVOO and two cloves of chopped garlic, keep your ear out for sizzling.
5. Dice tomatoes and roughly chop basil, or choice of herbs. Set aside.
Step two: Remember, someone has done this before.
As much as I talk about breaking away from recipes, I still have learned nearly everything from watching professionals. My dad was a chef when he was younger and I have picked up a surprising amount from Chopped. The other 50 percent has come from trial and error, but some of the best advice I’ve gotten, in cooking or not, comes from when I lay down my pride and see what the professionals have done before me. And this is how I learned to trim pork!
A little fat on your pork is no big deal, especially if you’re not a fan of trimming meat like I am, but make sure you remove what’s called the silverskin. This is a connective tissues that runs along the side of the tenderloin that will not break up when you cook it, making it very tough to eat. For a more detailed rundown, check out this website that is completely dedicate to pork tenderloin. The internet is a beautiful thing.
Whenever I get in a funk, either from not properly trimming my meat or going to the 10th failed audition of the month, I am always comforted by the idea that someone else has done this before. Most likely, unless you look on Web MD, you will find helpful advice that will make you feel less like you’re losing your mind.
Step three: Keep it simple.
The best advice I’ve ever gotten is to not throw everything into the pot just because you have it on hand. This isn’t the only meal you’ll ever cook. Also, the flavors will get out of hand and then you have a runaway train of a meal. If you watch any Anthony Bourdain show, you start to see that many parts of the world stick with a few key ingredients and they create incredible varieties from those few flavors.
6. When the garlic in the olive oil begins to sizzle, you know the pork is ready to go in. Rest the pork on one side in the oil, and resist the urge to move it. Walk away for a solid two minutes to keep yourself from moving the pork. This will allow it to sear. Go drink some wine.
7. Flip pork to other side, and walk away again. Delight in the amazing sear you made on side one. Celebrate with wine.
8. Add chopped tomatoes, basil, some wine from your glass, and a little turmeric. You can also add the remaining marinade. Mix and marinate with spoon.
Step four: Drink the wine you cook with.
A happy chef makes happy food. And yet, it’s silly to say that you will always be in a good mood when making dinner. For some people, it is done while juggling a million other things while feeling anxious about everything happening in real life. But once you fall into a groove with food prep, there is something natural that happens, something that reminds you that cooking is life affirming, and ends with a delicious meal.
When I am anxious, cooking gives me one thing to focus on. If I lose focus, I burn the meat, or chop my finger off. So out of sheer necessity, cooking can calm you and is better when you’re calm. So whatever will make the experience more enjoyable for you, go for it. Prepping food is taking care of yourself and whoever is lucky enough to share eat it with you. When the food comes out, it’s a celebration instead of a chore.
9. Cover pot and place in oven for 20 minutes.
Step five: Remove cat from table.
I’ve taken one official cooking class and the one thing I struggled with was cleaning up after myself. The discipline that professional chefs are taught is impressive. You make a mess, you clean it up. A clean kitchen was on the top of my teacher’s list that night. When the pork is in the oven, this is great time to move the cat (it’s unfortunately her favorite spot when it’s hot), wipe down the table, and make the room a happy place to eat. Sometimes if I’m feeling super lumpish, I will light a candle just to feel fancy. It makes all the difference, even if it’s just Tuesday night. Eating is special. And you just made something awesome.
10. Remove pot from oven, and let rest for 10 minutes. If you cut into the pork and it is bright red, by all means pop it back in for a few more minutes, but if it is pink inside, that is fine. The pork will continue to cook as you let it rest inside the pot. Turn off oven (important to note depending on wine).
This is great time to pour more wine, get out the plates and gather the troops.
11. Remove pork from pot and slice against the grain of the meat. Though it should be super tender, this will break it up even more and make it easier to chew.
12. Plate the pork and spoon sauce from pot over the meat. Eat and be damn proud of yourself.
Author: Ginny Bartolone
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Timothy Vollmer/Flickr