Monday, September 7, 2009

Sage Advice, Part 4: Drunk and Stuffed Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Drunk and stuffed. Sounds like how I've felt after many a good dinner party. Overindulgence... I've sure experienced my fair share. But in this instance, drunk and stuffed are actually really good attributes. They refer to a marinade built around a hard apple cider base, and a stuffing loaded with both sweet and savory ingredients - fresh pineapple sage being one of them.

This dish came about in true Fare to Remember fashion, where good food always means good company, and cooking equals community. My friend Hetta - a stellar cook and fellow shutter bug - was coming to spend the afternoon, and we were going to enjoy it by whipping up something fabulous for lunch. But not just any something - there were criteria: it had to be worthy of a blog post, and it had to utilize the fresh herbs in my garden, particularly, sage.

Now, if you own a copy of the Fare to Remember cookbook, you'll note that Hetta has a fabulous recipe therein for Pear, Gorgonzola and Sage Pizza (if you don't own the book - buy one - the pizza recipe alone makes it worth the price!). As much as I love that pizza, I put the kibosh on making it for her visit, really prefering to A) -try something new, and B) -grill something since it was Labor Day weekend. (Isn't grilling required the first weekend in September? I thought so.) So she and I got busy and bounced some ideas off of each other. She had just made a stuffed pork loin roast for hoardes of friends, and announced that it had been a huge success. Not only super tasty, but also an extremely affordable way to feed a crowd. Hers was marinated in a teryiaki sauce, stuffed with bread cubes, dried fruit and herbs, and then glazed with her homemade apricot jam. That got my wheels turning....

With her recipe as inspiration, I did a little train-of-thought reasoning: if pineapple sage was the herb I wanted to use, the dried fruit would naturally have to be.... (wait for it).... pineapple. The fresh fruit would then have to be... apple (like pineapple, but without the pine - no?). And since this whole apple theme had reared its head, a hard apple cider seemed only befiting as an ingredient around which to build a tropical/Asian/fusion marinade. Beyond that, I knew I wanted to use toasted oats in lieu of bread for the stuffing (I'm aiming for more whole grains in my diet). Logical, right? (Don't answer that.)

The result is this gorgeous tenderloin, literally exploding with flavor. We wound up using Hetta's homemade peach jam for the glaze, and the combination of flavors really turned out to be killer. The fruit was a wonderful sweet counterpoint to the savory pineapple sage, and the oats in the stuffing were a brilliant, nearly indistiguishable sustitute for bread. As you can see from the photo below, we had ourselves quite a little feast out on my patio, just the two of us. We may not have walked away drunk, but we sure stepped away from the table stuffed.

Drunk and Stuffed Grilled Pork Tenderloin
  • Two 1-pound pork tenderloins (or one 2-pound pork loin roast); butterflied and pounded flat
  • 1/4 cup peach jam, thinned with a tablespoon or so of pineapple juice or water, to be brushed on as a glaze
  • One 12-ounce bottle of hard apple cider (can be substituted with non-alchoholic apple cider)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese five spice sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple sage, chopped (can be substituted with regular sage)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all marinade ingredients and mix well. Pour the marinade over the pork tenderloins that have been placed in a deep casserole dish. Cover and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours (I let mine marinate overnight). When ready to stuff the tenderloins, reserve the marinade for use in the stuffing and for basting.

  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced small
  • 1/2 cup dried pineapple, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 of a small red onion, diced small
  • 1 cup whole oats, toasted (simply toast them in a pan on your stovetop over low heat)
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple sage, chopped (can be substituted with regular sage)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • Approximately 1/2 cup of the reserved tenderloin marinade (enough to make the stuffing moist)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Remove the tenderloin from the marinade and lay flat. Spoon the stuffing mixture onto the loin; roll to assemble, taking care to tuck the ends in as you go. The end result will look like a fat little log - or the tenderloin before you butterflied it. Truss it with string so that it won't fall apart on the grill. Sear the loin on all sides over high heat on a grill that has been brushed with oil. Once seared, remove from direct heat and cook under a closed lid, turning/basting every 3-4 minutes until done, approximately 25 minutes. (Regarding direct heat: my grill has three burners. I cooked this tenderloin on the center burner. After the sear, I turned the center burner off completely, and turned the two side burners to medium. That was enough to provide good indirect heat with the lid closed to cook the tenderloing to its carmel-colored perfection.) For the final 5 minutes of cooking, brush with the peach jam to glaze.

Note: Since the tenderloin has been pounded thin, there's really no point in using a meat thermometer to gauge the internal temperature. You really just have to go on instinct to know when the tenderloin is perfectly cooked. It's a fine line between juicy and a little pink, to dry and overcooked. I can usually tell by feeling the meat if it's ready. My trick: Pinch the fatty tissue in that little gap between your outstretched forefinger and thumb; once the pork has a similar consistency, it's perfect!

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