Flavors terrific in pork tenderloin
Last week we received a meal-in-a-box kit that featured a beautiful pork tenderloin. We've tried several of these delivery services, looking for more variety and inspiration in our menus and meals. Among them (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Sun Basket) we encountered some highs and lows, a few definite keepers and a few duds.
That said, all of the companies offered terrific customer service, responding immediately if anything was amiss in the box. And the boxes are quite large, mostly to accommodate all the packaging to keep the ingredients cool and fresh. Despite many positive experiences, this isn't right for us. We just haven't found a good balance between quality, convenience and cost.
Which returns me to that pork tenderloin. One of the advantages of the custom-delivery service was the size of the portion - instead of the typical multiple tenderloins in grocery store packages, this only had one, perfect for the two of us. The recipe included some of our favorite fall ingredients: apples, cranberries and butternut squash.
The instructions were straightforward: roast the pre-cubed squash, sauté an apple stuffing, fill and roll the tenderloin, bake until done and then make gravy. My initial challenge was prepping the tenderloin. Since it's shaped like a tall, slender pyramid, cutting the meat lengthwise resulted in very narrow halves at the top and chubby sections at the bottom.
I managed not to sever the halves completely, leaving them joined by a half-inch connection, as instructed. Spreading the meat onto plastic wrap and covering it with a piece of waxed paper, I began to pound the pork into a uniform thickness (actually, thinness). After nearly 10 minutes of assault with a meat tenderizer, the top awas beginning to shred and the bottom refused to flatten out.
Examining the meat helped me realize where I went wrong. During its packaging in the vacuum-sealed plastic, the piece of meat had been twisted. Unaware of this, I neglected to set out the meat on a flat surface to make sure the muscle fibers were straight and all running in the same direction. I also should have trimmed off the top and used it for seasoning in another recipe.
As a result of my less-than-ideal technique, rolling the tenderloin around chunky apple stuffing was a sloppy affair, at best. It was also quite tricky to tie the roll with the length of twine supplied in the box. Next time, I'll use a set of small skewers designed to hold closed the opening of a stuffed poultry cavity.
Despite the (mostly self-inflicted) obstacles, the meal was delicious. As you can see from the photo, the rolled tenderloin wasn't perfectly formed, but the flavors were terrific. A bright combination of slightly sweet apple and cranberry stuffing paired perfectly with the roasted butternut squash in a rich, savory gravy.
For my next attempt at a dish like this, I'll be sure to choose a more finely textured stuffing, for example, the spinach and walnut version in the recipe below. If you'd like to try the tenderloin in the picture, be sure to finely mince your apples and pound the the heck out of that pork.
Spinach-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
1 lb pork tenderloin
1 t olive oil
1 t Herbes de Provence
2 minced shallots
2 minced garlic cloves
4 C chopped spinach
3 oz goat cheese
1/4 C finely chopped walnuts
salt & pepper
1 T Balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil and place a small roasting rack in the center; set aside. Butterfly the tenderloin and pound to 1/2-inch thick; set aside. In a large skillet over medium-low heat combine the olive oil, Herbes de Provence and shallot. Sauté until shallot is softened; add the garlic and cook another minute or so. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes; drain excess liquid. Stir in goat cheese and walnuts, mixing to combine thoroughly. Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper. Spread spinach mixture evenly along one of the long sides of the butterflied tenderloin. Roll tightly and tie with kitchen twine, knotting every two inches. Brush the pork with Balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on the roasting rack and bake until a meat thermometer reads 160 F, about 35 minutes. Tent loosely with foil and allow to rest about 10 minutes before slicing. Yield: 2 to 3 servings.
Apple-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
1 lb pork tenderloin
1 Granny Smith apple
1 t olive oil
1 sliced green onion
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 C dried cranberries
1/4 t thyme
1/4 C apple cider
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil and place a small roasting rack in the center; set aside. Butterfly the tenderloin and pound to 1/2-inch thick; set aside. Peel, core and finely dice the apple. In a large skillet over medium-low heat combine olive oil, diced apple, green onion, garlic, cranberries and thyme. Cook until softened, stirring often. Deglaze the pan with the apple cider, scraping up any browned bits. Continue to simmer until almost all the moisture has evaporated. Place the butterflied tenderloin on a flat surface and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread apple mixture along one of the long sides and roll tightly. Tie with kitchen twine, knotting every two inches. Sprinkle the exterior of the rolled pork with salt and pepper; place in prepared pan. Brush the top with any remaining pan drippings and bake until a meat thermometer reads 160 F, about 35 minutes. Tent loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Yield: 2 to 3 servings.