Asian Pork Tenderloin

I hate always leading off with my grocery store habits, but, on the other hand, if any of you are like me, sometimes what you cook depends on what is on sale at the store!  If you allow yourself to be versatile and experimental, you can end up making some great dishes you wouldn’t normally have cooked up, all because you decided to save some buckos at the market!

That being said, pork tenderloin was BOGO at Giant last week, and I actually don’t like pork tenderloin, but the deal was great, and I knew I could doctor it to make it yummy.

What don’t I like about pork tenderloin?  They are pretty flavorless and don’t have a lot of fat…hooray.  BUT, they can take on flavor really well, and they particularly lend themselves to Asian flavors quite nicely, so I decided to create a soy-sauce driven marinade with fresh garlic and ginger.  I also used a rather unique technique to ensure EXTRA flavor got into the meat, which I will explain more below!

Ingredients:

1 pork tenderloin, about 1.5 lbs.
1.5 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. minced ginger
1/4 tsp. white pepper (You can use black if you don’t have white)

This really is a super easy recipe, it’s just the prepping of the pork that seems difficult.  But I promise, it’s not! And once you get the technique down, it’s a breeze.

Step 1:
Preparing the pork.  I decided to “butterfly” the pork, to impart the most flavor in a short amount of marinating time.  When any meat roast is in tact, it is hard to get flavor to permeate all the way through the meat.  By butterflying it then simply tying it back up with butcher’s twine to roast, that flavor gets alllll the way through the meat.  Trust me.  This pork was outstanding, and every bite tasted like fresh ginger.

First trim the pork of excess fat.  Some fat is good on the outside, especially since there is really no fat running through the meat, but if it is more than 1/4-inch thick anywhere, trim that down.  See below.

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See, that’s got to go.

Next, lay your knife flat along the long side of the tenderloin, about 1/3 of the way up.

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Proceed to cut all the way across, making long cuts and being careful.  But, don’t cut all the way through on the other side! Leave a small hinge of about 1/2-inch, then open the meat up like a book.

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As you can see, one side is thicker than the other, which is good, because we are going to cut through that thick side again, basically making a meat tri-fold.  Where that meat hinge is, place your blade flat and proceed to do the same cut, this time halfway through that thick half of the meat.

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Slice all the way through, again leaving that 1/2-inch hinge.  You will have a flat, thin piece of meat, and because it’s so thin, every inch of it will suck up that wonderful marinade, and do it fast!

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Like I mentioned, this technique is versatile.  Don’t want to use a marinade? Okay, slather that whole thing with an herb butter, then tie it back up and bake.  I have also seen this technique used for beef tenderloin.  It really is great.  And while it looks finicky, between trimming the meat and prepping it, it took me less than 10 minutes.

Step 2:
This is where it gets really easy.  Put all of the other ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

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If you’ve never cooked with fresh ginger before, this is a great introduction to it.  It’s not overwhelmingly spicy in this dish, it just provides that little subtle hit of warmth and heat.  And if you are wondering how to mince it, a microplane is your best bet! I LOVE mine, and use it for citrus zest frequently.

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Place the pork in a 13×9 glass baking dish and pour the marinade over top, flipping the pork as needed to make sure it’s coated.  Cover with plastic wrap, then throw it in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half (but really no longer than that, meat can start to get mushy if it marinates too long).

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Step 3:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with the oven rack in the middle position.  Now it’s time to tie the roast back up into roast shape!  Again, seems finicky, only takes 5 minutes.  Simply cut several lengths of butcher’s twine (I used 8 pieces) and tie the first one in the very center of the roast, firmly but not too tight.

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Then just work from the middle to the ends, tying at 1-1.5-inch intervals.  Place the roast on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet.

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Place in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the roast registers about 135 to 140 degrees.  Then remove from the oven, cover the meat tightly with foil, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.  At that point, transfer to a cutting board, snip off the butchers twine, cut into thick slices, and serve!

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I cannot even explain how moist, balanced, and delicious this roast turned out.  The brown sugar and soy sauce are the perfect compliments (and the salt content in the soy sauce works to brine the meat while it’s marinating!) and the fresh ginger and garlic are wonderfully aromatic and flavorful, and they really do permeate all of the meat.  I served this pork with basmati rice, and I did a quick sauté of Chinese eggplant and green beans in a little olive oil and a tiny bit of sesame oil, which was soaked up by the eggplant and tasted awesome.  The meal was really like a deconstructed stir-fry, except better, and without a gloppy sugary sauce.  I hope you will give it a try, and let me know how the butterflying technique works for you!

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Happy November!! And as always, happy eating.

~Lauren

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