Saturday, June 1, 2013

Poached Pork Tenderloin with Sicilian Potatoes Gratin and Steamed Broccoli

When I put together this past week's menu, I wanted to do something a bit different. Something that would be a tad bit fancier, but not take all day to cook. Having run through various chicken, fish, and pasta options, it dawned on me that we hadn't had pork tenderloin in some time.

And that thought reminded me of the most favorite way I know to prepare this lovely piece of meat: poaching it. Sounds kinda' crazy, huh? But it really works, and you will be amazed at how tender the tenderloin is. Seriously. I promise.

I mean, look at this plate:

Aren't you tempted, just even a little bit, to take a bite? Yup, I thought you would want to. Here's how it all came together, courtesy of one of the most beautiful and fun cookbooks I know of:
The photography will blow you away, and you will discover all kinds of cool things to do with ingredients that will have you running to the store in no time flat.
For this recipe, first, get yourself a pork tenderloin. I bought mine at Frank's, right here in town.
Trim off any excess fat and any traces of silver skin.
Next, heat some olive oil and butter on medium high heat in a skillet large enough to hold the pork.
Place the pork in the skillet and roll it around to get a good sear on all sides.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the pork cool enough so you can handle it. Then rub about a teaspoon of honey and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon all over the loin.
With that seasoning done, wrap the pork in a length of plastic wrap, tie off each end, and trim any excess plastic.
Next I place the wrapped loin in a zippered plastic bag, making sure I remove as much air as possible.
While this step isn't mentioned in the recipe, I have found this makes life easier later on in the poaching process.
Now place the wrapped pork in the fridge for about eight hours.
Once the pork has finished marinating, fill a pot that's big enough to accommodate the wrapped pork with water. Heat the water to 140 degrees. Needless to say, popping some type of thermometer in the water is advisable to know when you've reached the desired temperature.
Place the double-wrapped pork into the water.
Having made this recipe a few times when we were in the States, I found that putting some sort of weight on the wrapped pork will keep it below the water level during the poaching step. In this case, I used a heavy metal spoon, but use whatever device works for you.
It's at this stage that the zipped bag makes your life easier. The reason? I found that putting the pork -- only encased in the plastic wrap -- had a tendency to develop some leaks, which let that lovely marinade escape. The extra layer of the bag eliminates that problem.
Now you're going to let this baby poach for about an hour. Keep a close eye on the temperature. If it starts going above 140 degrees, pop a couple of ice cubes into the pot to bring the temperature down.
While my tenderloin was taking its nice warm bath, I worked on the potatoes.
Take a couple of russet potatoes and slice them thin, thin, thin. I mean like really thin.
Coat whatever dish you will be using with olive oil and put an overlapping layer of your skinny potato slices. Then sprinkle some capers and Parmesan cheese, then drizzle the layer with olive oil.
Repeat these steps until your dish is filled to the tippy top, and sprinkle the top layer with more cheese. Pour some chicken stock over the layers, and gently press down to compress all those yummy bits.
Cover the dish with aluminium foil and place in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for an hour. Presuming that the potatoes are fork tender at that point, remove the foil and continue baking for about another 15 minutes or until the cheese on the top has melted.
Now back to the pork. After it has poached for an hour, open the zip bag and take the pork's temperature. You want it to be at 140 degrees. If it's not quite there yet, reseal the bag and place it back in the water bath until done.
Once you've reached the Nirvana state of 140 degrees, remove it from the water, unwrap the pork, sear it one last time (just like you did the first time around), loosely tent it, and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
As an aside, if you're juggling a bunch of sides to go with your meal, the pork can sit in the poaching water -- with the heat turned off -- for up to about two hours.
The only thing that was left to do was steam the broccoli, which I asked David to do. You know me, it's a vegetable. I'd rather spend my time on the protein and starch.
Anyhow, when all was ready, we come full circle to our opening shot:

To finish the plate, I drizzled some balsamic vinegar over the pork. If you have the time, it's even more wonderful if you reduce the vinegar until it becomes a glaze. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough vinegar on hand to pull that off this go round.

The bottom line is that this pork -- while taking a bit of planning -- is moist, tender, heavenly, and any other succulent word that comes to your mind. And the potatoes? Oh my. You get the salty taste from the capers and cheese, and the creaminess of those spuds. Oh, and I guess I should throw a bone to the broccoli. It was steamed perfectly, so that it still had a bit of firmness to it. And I have to admit that the green element on the plate did look pretty. I, of course, did the noble thing and gave half mine to David.

To sum up -- if you're looking for a new and different way to prepare your next pork tenderloin, give poaching a try. You probably won't go back to any other methods you've used.

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