This week we’ve had quite a warm spell and my plans to make either my recipes for either split-pea soup or chicken noodle soup—soup being one of my favorite meals this time of year—went by the wayside when the temps went up to the mid-60’s and then 70 degrees. Really? In January? This time last year most folks here were racing for the grocery store like the non-snow savvy southerners that we are, trying to out-buy each other in the milk, bread, salt and chili-making ingredient categories, and battening down our hatches for what turned out to be a significant snow storm that shut Atlanta down for several days….not that it actually takes snow to do that, as you already know if you live here!
Seriously though, it’s been kinda nice to be outside and have it feel like March or April, and in fact, if it weren’t raining, we’d be grilling out tonight. But since fire, charcoal and wet don’t go together too well, I decided to crank up the oven and make this truly grand pork tenderloin recipe from Damon Lee Fowler’s New Southern Kitchen cookbook. He serves this delicious pork tenderloin with his fresh apple chutney which sounds like it would be pretty awesome, but in truth I’ve never made it because I like the tenderloin so well by itself! Any leftovers are great for sandwiches, in a salad with fresh fruits and greens, and as a truly fabulous pizza topping with some caramelized onions, a little fresh thyme and some grated aged gouda…that is, if you actually HAVE any left over!
I wanted to make something to go along with this that had complimentary flavors— perhaps a salad with seasonal veggies—and then remembered how much I’ve enjoyed this Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette recipe from Ina Garten. This luscious salad is made from butternut squash roasted with a tiny bit of maple syrup, then dried cranberries are added to soften with the squash during the last 5 minutes of roasting. The shallot and apple cider vinaigrette comes together quickly on the stove top, then you just combine the salad greens with the squash, berries, toasted walnuts and cheese, and toss with a little of the vinaigrette. It’s terrific with the pork and it’s a great recipe to have on hand…it also makes a tasty and light vegetarian meal by itself. I’ve made this with soft goat cheese instead of the parmesan and it’s wonderful, just toss everything with the vinaigrette before adding the cheese, then sprinkle the cheese on top to avoid a creamy mess. Any leftover vinaigrette is lovely to use over future salads. In this case, I think a salad made with leftover pork, plums or apple and the rest of this vinaigrette would be pretty darn special!
Bourbon-Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin
(Ever so slightly adapted from Damon Lee Fowler’s New Southern Cookbook)
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. total)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup turbinado, raw or cane sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
Wash the tenderloin under cold running water and pat dry. Put it in an oblong platter or casserole that will just hold it comfortably. Sprinkle the meat generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in the bourbon and whisk in the mustard. Pour this on top of the tenderloin, turning until well coated. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. LIft the pork out of the glaze, allowing any excess to drain off onto the platter, and reserve the glaze. Place the tenderloin into a lightly greased (DO grease the pan, I’ll tell you why later) close fitting open roasting pan or casserole and place into the upper third of the oven. Roast for 15 minutes or until the glaze is beginning to brown lightly. Reduce the heat to 400 degrees F, and roast, basting very lightly every now and then with the reserved glaze, then a bit more basting just before the pork is done and just cooked through or reaches an internal temp of 160-165 degrees F, about 30-35 minutes.
When the pork is done, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan to a cutting board and thinly slice across the grain, then transfer the slices to a warm platter. Return any accumulated juices to the roasting pan and stir the pan juices until they are smooth. Serve the meat with the pan juices drizzled over.
Note: The first time I made this, I was so clever. I thought “why take the meat out of the glaze when I’m just going to spoon it back over anyway?” Duh, lots of sugar + bourbon + mustard + high heat = BURNED! I looked in the oven and didn’t think it was as bad as it actually was…until the smoke alarm went off! As the meat was resting and my husband was trying to disarm the alarm by taking out the batteries, I was opening and closing the kitchen door to try and “fan” out the smoke and smell. The meat was fine but it seemed like it took a year for the smell to go away. I kept the dish that I never got all of the burned sugar out of as a symbol and a reminder of my brilliance. The lesson learned was two-fold: Although the recipe doesn’t call for it, do use a bit of olive oil to grease your dish before you put in the drained pork and place it in the oven and it will help with the cleaning process later. Also go very lightly with the basting initially, just a bit along the top of the meat and not enough to run too much into the pan, then as you get closer to the meat being done, baste with more of the glaze and it’s less likely to get too toasty, leaving you with some nice pan juice for drizzling!