Having previously experimented with pork tenderloins (inspired by efforts from good friend Brian David-Marshall), we decided to once again give them a run for the Monday Night Gamers. I picked up three separate tenderloins after deciding to try three different rub/crust ideas.
Each tenderloin was roughly 1 ¼ pounds, trimmed. After rubbing them, I cooked them on the grill, starting at about 600F to nicely sear them, then lowering the direct heat for about 10 minutes, cooking each to an internal temperature of between 145-150F. I’d call this medium for pork, and I wouldn’t be afraid to go a little lower, about 140F, for medium-rare. We no longer have the concerns over trichinosis we did when we were all much younger, so there’s no reason to overcook your pork. I let the tenderloins rest for about five minutes before slicing them into medallions for the serving platter.
This was the easiest, since I had a packet of Espresso Steak Rub from The Spice and Tea Exchange in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Tarpon Springs is a heavily Greek-influenced community with a few nice restaurants and some touristy stuff, but the biggest draw for us is that it’s 2 minutes from B-21, one of the country’s great wine shops.
Their Espresso Rub is a blend of fresh kosher salt, pepper, ground espresso beans, garlic, ancho chili powder, espresso sugar, smoked paprika, onion, and cilantro. On the previous attempt at pork tenderloins, I had mixed up my own blend quite similar to this, so I decided to give the packaged one a try for comparison’s sake.
We were extremely happy with it. The addition of cilantro (which I don’t personally much care for, since it tastes to me like soap), helped give a bit of a balance to the dark, moody espresso and hot, smokey ancho. This is without a doubt something to run again. At first, one of the guys passed up eating any of this one, but after everyone else raved about it, he grabbed the last few bites.
I sometimes think that rosemary is too easy a go-to herb, but it’s so beautifully aromatic, it’s hard to resist. I wanted a little spice from the paprika to make this one the middle ground heat-wise between the Espresso Rub and the mustard one to follow, but not too much.
2 tbsp chopped rosemary
¼ cup Italian bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp smoked Hungarian paprika
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
This one turned out decent, but the rosemary flavor didn’t really come through. Next time, I’ll probably double the amount of rosemary, and I might also add another half teaspoon of paprika.
MUSTARD and PARM CRUST
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp fresh parsley
1 ½ tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
We learn most from our failures, right? I rubbed the tenderloin with the mustard and then mixed together the other ingredients. I then got concerned that there wasn’t enough mustard, so I added some of that to the mixture (I’m still not sure what possessed me—it was one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time). Instead of having a rub, I now had a paste. I think this might have been fine had I put it in the oven instead of on the grill. As it was, the crust basically fell off when I turned the meat. I’m definitely experimenting with this mixture again, so we’ll see what happens. Fortunately, it was still grilled pork tenderloin, which is perfectly edible.
For sides, we chose steamed asparagus (which is a Monday Night Gamer favorite—three pounds was not enough for the six of us; next time it’s four) and Scalloped Potato Gratin, snagging a Food Network recipe from Tyler Florence.
This was one of the easiest and tastiest scalloped potato recipes I’ve tried. The only time-consuming parts were slicing the potatoes on the mandolin and grating the cheese (I’m a big believer that quality ingredients make you a better cook—no sawdust in a green can, thank you). After that, it was a case of mixing everything together and popping it in the oven. The top came out nicely crisp, the inside deliciously creamy. I might consider on future tries a few grinds of nutmeg to go in as well.
Two and a quarter pounds of potatoes (the recipe called for 2, but I bumped it up knowing how the guys eat) was also not quite enough for the hearty-appetite gamers. Next time, we’ll do a batch and a half, which should be more than enough.
I chose 2008 Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel Sonoma County for the wine, wanting enough body and fruit to hold up to the pork. When pairing with pork, like chicken, I’d rather concentrate on the sauce and spices instead of the meat itself. I liked Zin here because the richness of the fruit would make a nice contrast to the spiciness especially of the ancho. We might have gone with an Australian Shiraz, but I thought that the Aussie’s love of the wood might be a little distracting.
Pork tenderloins are a nice starting point for discovering your own cooking. They provide an excellent (and tasty) baseline for nearly anything you might want to try.