When my wife and I moved in together after dating for a year, we got an apartment in my home town of Fountain Valley, California, right across the street from Fountain Bowl, the past host of the PBA’s Dick Weber Open and the Cheetah Open, for those keeping tabs on such trivia. The bar inside of Fountain Bowl, a place my friends and I deemed “The Lizard Lounge,” must be seen in person to appreciate its beauty; it simply is a slice of Americana every night, and whether karaoke or a tournament is happening, every walk of life makes their presence known at some point in the evening.
I bring up that first apartment because it’s where I really started learning how to cook. We weren’t allowed to have a grill on our 2nd floor patio, and I was naive to the concept of the grill pan, so I used the communal grill near the Jacuzzi and pool. This thing was gas powered and altogether an insurance company’s nightmare had they known the condition in which it was kept. I basically had to turn on the gas, light a match, and then jump four feet back to avoid the burst of flames that singed my eyebrows and goatee. All in good fun, and my salon visits were shorter for the few years we lived there.
At this time, I discovered those pork tenderloins that Hormel or the grocery store itself packages, perhaps with a peppercorn or lemony marinade infused with glowing and tasty chemicals. Still, they taste good, so I would grill these babies up fairly often, even for company. What sucked is that, at night, there was no lighting near the grill (besides the embers still smoldering on my clothes, of course), and I had no confidence in whether the pork was truly done or not. Pork (more specifically, trichinosis) used to scare me, so I always felt that overcooking it was better than it being underdone. Once I reentered our apartment and my eyes adjusted to the artificial light, I would realize that my pork tenderloin was now the equivalent of a Chee-to colored with a black Sharpie. The taste was there, surely, but my wife and I had sore mandibles for the remainder of the night from ruminating so thoroughly on the meat.
But pork shouldn’t be this way. And it isn’t now that I know what I’m doing, and I have a little something called a meat thermometer which, amazingly, indicates the temperature at which the meat is done. Who would’ve thunk it?
This Roasted Herbed Pork Tenderloin is probably the moistest, most tender one I’ve ever made. It only needs to marinade for a few hours, and the payoff is huge. It’s cheap, too. I got a nice tenderloin from Trader Joe’s for $6. Moreover, half of a tenderloin (HALF!) is an 8 on the old Weight Watchers system (Points Plus and 360° can go fuck themselves). Add some squash and steamed green beans, as in the picture below, and you have a huge dinner for a 9. Not bad at all. It’s even based on an Ina Garten recipe, which usually means copious butter, but this one is an anomaly in that regard.
Roasted Herbed Pork Tenderloin
Serves 2 or 3
the zest of one lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 olive oil
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tbsp. chopped, fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 pound pork tenderloin
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
In a bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary Dijon, and salt. Mix this well. Get a freezer bag (or something like it) and put the tenderloin in it. Pour the marinade over it, swish it around, and seal it after you get the air out of the bag. Refrigerate this for at least 3 hours up to a day.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Get an oven-proof skillet or saute pan and add the two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove the tenderloin from the bag but don’t shake it off (you want all of the good herbs and stuff clinging to it). Discard the rest of the marinade. Season the pork with a 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sear this until it’s nice and brown on all sides. Place the pan in the oven and roast the tenderloin for 15 minutes, or until the meat thermometer reads 140° +. It might be pink in the thick part, but that’s a good thing.
Remove the pan from the oven, transfer the tenderloin to a serving platter, and cover it tightly with foil. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, slice it into 1″ thick pieces and serve. Pour the juices over the portions, if you’re a rock star like that. You’ll get this:
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013