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In Charleston the high has officially been under 80° for two days in a row, which means Fall is here! With the temperature reaching such chilly lows as 62° this week, I've been craving Fall comfort food. Pair the low temperatures with a recent conversation with my mother about stuffed pork tenderloin, and I was in the mood to experiment.
Sometimes great meals are made from three hours moseying around the farmer's market picking out the freshest ingredients, or a great sale on meat at the market. Sometimes great meals are made from a reproduction of something had at a restaurant or a friend's house.
Great meals are made from whatever the heck I have in my fridge that must be consumed tonight before it sprouts legs and leaves the fridge of its own accord. This is how I came upon this recipe, but from now on it will be in the regular dinner rotation -- company worthy, even.
It's worth noting here something more general about my recipes -- sometimes a recipe has more to do with what is on hand at my house habitually (not just what needs to be used, but what is always here available for use). Substitutions are fine, and in the case of herbs, fresh is always better. I try to save dried herb usage for things like stews and sauces (or in this case, filling): things that will be cooked a long time.
Why did I use dried sage and thyme here instead of fresh? Because I forgot to water my plants for a week, and the rosemary was the only survivor.
Why pine nuts, and not walnuts or pecans? Because I buy my pine nuts at Costco to make pesto en masse, but due to the aforementioned herbicide I committed last week, my basil looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie and I needed to use the pine nuts before they turned rancid. And yes, pine nuts will turn rancid. (You know that funny taste the olive oil you found in the back of the top cabinet acquired after three years of hibernation? Same idea.) Freezing pine nuts will help delay the process, but I got sick of hearing my husband yelp out in pain every time he opened the freezer door and the huge bag of pine nuts slid out of its stasis chamber, tumbled down the front of the fridge, and onto his big toe.
What's the moral of this story? This recipe turned out perfectly. It may very well be the best pork I've ever made! The warm and herb-y filling wrapped with juicy, tender pork was perfect for indulging my delusion that a weekend of pleasant weather means Fall is on its way. I served this with whipped lima beans and some spring greens tossed with a little homemade vinaigrette (hmmm... perhaps that should be a recipe one day soon).
Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
- 1 pork tenderloin
- 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
- 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 425°
Spread the pine nuts evenly over a jelly roll pan (or any other pan with a lip -- this keeps them from trying to jump ship when you take the pan out of the oven. I always used to lose a few when I used a cookie sheet, and when they would hit the heating element in the bottom of the stove they'd turn into little fireballs). Bake in the oven for 4 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside.
Take a very sharp knife, and cut into the pork tenderloin lengthwise, but don't cut all the way through. Make sure there is about 1/4" thickness of pork left, so that you may open the tenderloin like a book, with the 1/4" being the binding. Congratulations, you just butterflied a tenderloin.
Place the tenderloin (tenderloin open with the cut side down, between two sheets of plastic wrap) and pound it to 1/4" thickness.
In a sauté pan, cook the mushrooms until tender, and set aside on a paper towel to catch any excess moisture. Repeat for the spinach.
Chop half of the cooled toasted pine nuts, and then mix all of the nuts (chopped and whole), mushrooms, spinach, goat cheese, bacon, garlic, herbs, and salt and pepper.
Flip the tenderloin so that it is cut-side up, and spread the mixture evenly over the meat, leaving 1/4" - 1/2" border untouched by filling. Roll the tenderloin as tightly as possible, and either secure it with toothpicks, or tie with kitchen twine.
Whew. Prep is finished. That seemed to take forever...
The good news, is that if you want to make this recipe for company, you can do all of that stuff before they come (I'd say up to a day in advance, at most), and then finish it off right before serving:
Heat an oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat, then add the olive oil. Add the tenderloin to the pan, and cook on the first side until you can see the tenderloin is cooked 1/3 of the way through. (The pork will turn from pink to white 1/3 of the way up the side). Flip the tenderloin over, and place the pan into the 425° oven for approximately 10 minutes.
Pork should be cooked to about 145° (not the 160° that was previously thought of as safe), so verify with a meat thermometer about 10 minutes after taking the pork out of the oven.
After letting the meat rest, cut into slices 1/3" thick and serve.