This may be a stretch, but I chose my topic for this column to show some sort of simpatico with the color theme for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I’m virtually certain that your grandmother or home-ec teacher told you that pork had to be cooked until it was bone dry and bright white in order for your tummy to be safe. I and thousands of my culinary professional colleagues urge you otherwise.
The last known case of trichinosis in the United States occurred more than 55 years ago. The pork producers of this country and I hereby declare it safe for you to let a little pink remain in your pork. That’s because the folks who raise hogs are using better feed and, as a result, the pork we’re buying now is actually about a third leaner that it was 15 years ago. Even so, that nasty bug that causes trichinosis dies at 137 degrees.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the normal food-safety precautionary measures when handling this meat, such as washing anything that comes in contact with raw pork.
Nevertheless, that little pink I’m advocating happens to be the secret to moist and flavorful pork whether it’s the tenderloin or pork chops and even pork roast. I feel the same way about beef and duck breast, but definitely not chicken or turkey.
But I digress.
Pork tenderloin is one of the more delicate cuts of meat and it should be treated with care. So I sear it quickly and roast it quickly, too. But I also “protect” the meat with a coating of pecans and breadcrumbs.
I use Dijon mustard to help the nuts adhere to the meat. The oils released by the nuts, along with the herbs I add, during the time in the oven – all of these add to the flavor of the meat. And because the tenderloin has very little fat, it’s important to take such measures to maintain as much moisture as possible.
When it comes to pork tenderloin, forget what grandma told you. Just watch your temperature; watch your time; and go pink!
Pecan-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Tomatillo Salsa
2 1-pound pork tenderloins
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the pecans, breadcrumbs, thyme, salt and pepper in a pie plate.
Heat a large skillet with a thin film of oil over medium-high heat. Sear the tenderloins until they develop a golden crust. Remove from the pan to cool.
Using a pastry brush, “paint” the pork with the Dijon mustard and roll in the pecan mixture until the tenderloins are coated.
Roast for about 18 minutes or until your instant read thermometer registers 145º. Let the meat rest for a couple of minutes so the juices settle and then slice, served with tomatillo salsa. Here’s that recipe:
3/4 pound tomatillos, husks removed and washed
1/2 cup Granny Smith apple, skin on, coarsely chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh basil
2 Tbsp. fresh mint
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove the husks from the tomatillos. Rinse them and then cut them into quarters. Add to the bowl of a food processor.
Add in coarsely chopped Granny Smith apple, the jalapeño pepper, the fresh basil and fresh mint. Turn on the food processor and chop until the mixture combines into a chunky salsa. Salt and pepper to taste.
To get the maximum flavor from this salsa, make it a day ahead and let it sit covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving with the pecan-crusted pork tenderloin.
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