Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tenderloin Tuesday?! Crazy Coincidence!

So last night it was my turn to cook dinner for a few of the girls here at school, and I had seen a video online that explained how to make a garlic and herb crust for a pork tenderloin, so that was the plan. Afterward, I  (naturally) jumped on Twitter to post about the new recipes I tried, just to find out that it was Tenderloin Tuesday!? I had no idea - certainly one of the craziest coincidences I have run in to lately!

A few weeks ago I was perusing my favorite food sites and came across a video that showed how to make a garlic and herb crust for a pork tenderloin. Being that I know how to make things like chicken cordon bleu, thai peanut chicken lettuce wraps and green smoothies, but have no idea how to make more basic dishes such as pot roast, I thought this would be a great basic to add to my repertoire.

At the store, however, I could not find a whole pork tenderloin (and there's no butcher you can talk to)  so I went with the thin cut pork loin chops. I thought it would be fine, but looking in my Good Housekeeping Cookbook as well as over 20 other recipes in other various cookbooks and websites, I realized that this was not going to be easy. Why? Apparently pork, like chicken, is very, very tricky because it is hard to make sure that it cooks through, but isn't dry or tough. And it, also apparently, is even more difficult than chicken.

I didn't decide on any particular recipe. Instead I used the same seasonings as the video I watched, and combined what everyone else said as far as cooking time and method, and decided to cook them on the stove, with oil, in a pan, and watched them VERY VERY carefully.

Here is the how I did it... 
(I cooked for 4 people, no leftovers - that's a good sign, right?)

First I marinated the pork loin for 3 hours (overnight would be even better)
- 8 thin-sliced pork loin chops.
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled & minced
- 1 cup. Balsamic Vinegar
I placed the pork in a single layer in a Pyrex dish. I made sure both sides of each piece was coated in the balsamic vinegar. Then I sprinkled the garlic evenly over each piece.

Then I started on the Sweet Potato Fries

- 3 large sweet potatoes
- Olive oil
- Fresh cracked pepper
- Fresh cracked sea salt
- Sugar Free Lite Maple Syrup
- Cinnamon mixed with Splenda (equal parts)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Leave the baking sheet in the oven so that it preheats as well.

Clean, peel and then cut the sweet potatoes in to long strips. (Tip: be careful not to leave any of the ends or edges too thin or pointy, because they will burn).

I coated half of the fries in to olive oil and placed them one side of the baking sheet, then topped with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt.

The other half I coated with maple syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon and Splenda. Sweet and salty!

I made an aluminum foil barrier to place between the two types so that the oil and syrup didn't mix.

Place in the oven and cook until they look brown and cripsy at least on one side. Flip with tongs occassionally.

Now it's time to cook the pork. 

This step is last since it is SO quick! I used a stove-top griddle pan. Basically it is just a very shallow fry pan. My only large fry pan is a wok, which would not work for this, so this was my best option.

First preheat your pan or griddle with some EVOO. While you are waiting for that to preheat, mix the following incredients on a plate or in a shallow bowl:
- Rubbed sage (about 1 T.)
- Dried Rosemary (about 1/2 T.)
- Garlic powder (1 t.)

Next, carefully remove one pork loin chop at a time from the dish where it was marinating. Using tongs place the chop garlic-side down (careful that it doesn't all fall off!) in to this mixture to create an "herb crust."

Once they all have crust on them, one at a time, again with tongs, place them in to the hot oil on the pan or griddle. After about a minute (will vary depending on how thick your chops are), flip, being careful again not to lose the crust.

They should cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Or until cooked through, but not tough. (Note: pork will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat, so the second they look almost done, remove them and place them on a platter.

I also made a big salad with a new homemade dressing, packet gravy, and balsamic reduction

I rinsed and chopped up some romaine lettuce, letting it sit out while I did the rest of the cooking. One thing I've learned about salads at home, I HATE when they are ice cold. Then I chopped up some tomatoes, red onion and cucumbers, putting each in to their own small bowl. Feta and almonds rounded out the toppings. Not knowing how much of each  my guests would like, I left them out and let them do the topping to their own individual liking.

The dressing was an adaptiation of one I saw on the back of a lettuce bag at the store. I used:

- 1 cup Fage 0% Fat Greek Yogurt (any plain yogurt would work)
- 1 T. Agave Blue Nectar (you can use honey)
- 1/2 t. Poppyseeds (in the seasoning aisle- keep searching, they're there!)
- Juice of 1/2 Lemon

Mixed it up and it tasted great over the aforementioned ingredients :)

The balsamic reduction could have it's own post. Potent smell, pain in the butt, the smoke detector went off a few times, but it tasted great! If you want to make your own, google it or search on Food, there are tons of methods out there - and if I had the right tools and a normal kitchen, it would have been fine! :)

The gravy I made in case my guests weren't keen on the whole balsamic reduction thang. I just used a packet from the store labled "Pork Gravy," mixed it with water and heated it up. (Bleh, if you ask me!)

Last, but certaintly not least, dessert!

I made a Chocolate Cinnamon Pudding. I bought a packed of No Sugar Added, Fat Free Jello Brand Instanty Chocolate Pudding Mix. I made it according to the package, but substituted milk with almond milk. The packed says that if made with soy milk, it would not set, but with almond milk it does! I mixed in 1 Tablesoon of ground cinnamon, cut up apples for dipping, and VOILA! :) It was a hit!

Note: when you first try to mix the cinnamon in to the pudding it is as hesitant as an 8th grade boy at the homecoming dance. Just keep trying and eventually they will mix :)

Overall I think it was a success!

I really like the herb and garlic crust mixed with the strong balsamic flavor. Pork isn't my favorite to begin with, but I'll be willing to try it again - hopefully as a whole loin rather than chops!

The salad was great and I'm glad that there is leftover dressing! (I had some for lunch today:))

The sweet potato fries were very tasty - both ways - but I prefer firmer, crispier fries. I used a little too much oil, which made them soggy and not too crispy. I would suggest tossing them with oil in a separate bowl or dish to coat, then transfering them to the baking sheet. I drizzled mine with oil and I think there was too much reside which led them to cook in a small pool of the oil.

This meal was INSANE preparation wise for me. I have a tiny little kitchen with very, very, very little counter space, and with 2 sauces, 1 meat, 5 salad toppings, a dressing, meat, and potatoes - it was a little too hectic. Here's to another "Pro" being added to the "Moving Home After Graduation" Pro/Con List :)
Huge mess in my tiny kitchen :)

Do you cook pork? What's your favorite way?
What about sweet potato fries?

Giveaways coming soon! And I am VERY excited! But I need to know what you guys would like! What kinds of things would you be interested in for giveaways? Food bars, kitchen gadgets, recipe books, seasonings/spices? Let me know! :)


  1. Chocolate cinnamon pudding sounds delish!

    You should try almond butter crusted sweet potato fries--sooo good! :)

  2. Did your sweet potato fries come out crispy? I know that when I've tried, they usually turn out limp (I hear it's because of the water content) but what about yours?

  3. Nope they were kinda mushy! I think I just had too much oil though, like I explained. Next time I'll just toss them in a separate dish.

    I've made them before and they weren't SUPER crispy (and I'm not deep frying! ;)) but they weren't limp, so I'm really thinking it's the oil :)