Italian Pork Tenderloin

It’s not often that my first attempt at a new dish is successful. It usually takes some tweaking and experimenting until the flavor profile is just right. But after doing some online research and looking at all the ways people make pork tenderloin… I decided to go with Italian… and got right to work. The one consistent piece of advice I read regardless of the recipe… was that I should brine the tenderloin first. I’ve also never attempted to brine something before so it was quite a day of firsts!

So here we go!

Start with brining which enhances juiciness and is simpler than you think. Just mix a quart of cold water, ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup table salt in a large resealable plastic bag (include other spices, aromatics and lemon or lime zest for more flavor). Even 30 minutes will make a difference, but you can brine it up to 8 hours in the fridge. Be sure not to add any vinegar products or it will dry out the meat.

1-1.5lbs pork tenderloin
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
¼ cup pesto
2 tablespoons each of the Italian Big Five (thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, basil)
1 pinch of salt (remember the brine already adds a lot of salt)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Remove any excess fat from the outside of the tenderloin. Then take a sharp knife (do you have a sharpening steel? A sharpened knife makes all the difference! Never sharpened a knife before? Check this out)… and slice through the tenderloin lengthwise but not all the way through… this is called a butterfly cut.

Stir together pesto (either store bought or homemade) and room temperature mascarpone until creamy and thoroughly mixed. Then take the pesto mixture and spread it across the meat interior. Fold meat back together and either tie together with kitchen string or seal edges with toothpicks.

On a flat plate… mix together all the dry herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, salt & pepper) and roll sealed tenderloin until covered with seasoning. The rub will stick best if meat is dry.

Ready to Cook?
In a stove-to-oven pan heat the olive oil. Use just enough to coat the bottom or you won’t get a good sear on your meat. Sear meat for a good 3-4 minutes on each side. And don’t forget the ends of your meat! Once you see a good darkened layer transfer the pan to a 425 degree oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature is 145 degrees. I prefer my pork to be slightly pick in the center – if you prefer yours more well-done… let it get to 155 degrees. Remove from the oven and place the tenderloins on a plate. Tent the pork with foil and let it rest about 5 minutes before serving.

Cut your tenderloin into 1/4-1/2 inch slices and fan out on your serving platter. Make a quick pan sauce by de-glazing the skillet with chicken broth or white wine. Add a spoonful of mascarpone to thicken the sauce. Drizzle over your pork medallions and garnish with rosemary sprigs.

The Perfect Bite
Be sure to swirl your bite of pork in the herb and mascarpone sauce that you just made and drizzled over our dish. If serving with pasta or a couscous… be sure to scoop some of that as well.

The Perfect Pairing
A great wine to go with just about any pork dish… but especially this one’s Italian flavor profile… is the A to Z Pinot Noir. This wonderful little 2008 Oregon wine is heartier than most pinot noirs and its peppery tannins bring a great balance to the sweetness of the mascarpone filled pork. You can find in in most wine stores for about $20.00 a bottle.

The Perfect Health

It’s true: Pork really is the other white meat. Ounce for ounce, pork tenderloin has less fat than a chicken breast. And food scientists are finding ways to make it leaner and leaner every year. Best Tip: Avoid cured meats.  Read more here.


Sweet Potato Orzo with Mascarpone Sauce, Asparagus Tips & Truffle Oil

I love discovering a new food and on a recent trip to Pike’s Market in Seattle I stumbled across a dried pasta vendor selling Pappardelle‘s products. They had a myriad of flat cut and pasta blends… but the one that sounded best to me was the Sweet Potato Orzo. Oh my heavenly word… I purchased a pound of it (it’s actually cheaper to do so online… check the above link).

I couldn’t wait to get home and start experimenting! Keep an eye out – I also bought chocolate linguine… and I’m trying that out next week!

I started researching a few ideas of how to best bring out the flavors of this new pasta… and came up with the following recipe. The final touch was when I added white truffle oil.. prior to that, it was a good taste. But I didn’t get that “wow” factor until I added a couple of drops of the precious truffle oil – also a Pike’s Market treasure. I’m always looking to get that “oh… my… gosh…” response when I ask a willing friend to try a bite. Definitely got it this time.

(serves 6)
1lb Sweet Potato Orzo
1/3 cup fresh asparagus tips (cut 1″ to 1.5″ tip off of stalk)
1 clove garlic minced
1/3 cup shelled, toasted pine nuts (toast your self at 3 min on top rack of a 350 degree oven)
4 tblspns butter
7 oz mascarpone or cream cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp of Truffle oil for drizzling

Ready To Cook?
Melt butter in skillet and sauté garlic until golden brown. Add asparagus tips and continue stirring for 3 minutes and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in 6-8 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. While pasta is cooking, add the mascarpone (or cream cheese) to the garlic/butter mixture and heat on low until asparagus tips are tender. Be careful not too overcook or asparagus will become mushy. Should be done in 3-5 minutes.

Drain pasta (don’t rinse), toss in the Parmesan and pine nuts and transfer to serving dish. Stir in sauce. Top each serving with a sprinkle of Parmesan and 1-2 drops of white truffle oil. Be careful as a little goes a long way. Serve at once.

The Perfect Bite
Be sure to get a little sweet potato orzo, pine nut and asparagus on your fork. The blend of sweet potato and pine nut with the buttery cheesiness of the mascarpone… will be reminiscent of the candied yam casserole your mom used to make at Thanksgiving. But combined with the asparagus, Parmesan and truffle oil… your pallet will be surprised with a profile of favors you might not have experienced before. Enjoy!

The Perfect Pairing
What better pairing for this unique blend of flavors than a blend of reds from Cline Cellars? Cline’s Cashmere 2007 is a silky blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache. With a purchase of this 2007 Cashmere… Cline Cellars will donate $25,000 to the Breast Cancer Network of Strength’s Ride to Empower. Visit their website to learn more.

Did You Know?
To quote Julia Child, “Don’t be afraid!” Truffle Oil is one of those mysterious ingredients we hear about on Food Network cooking shows like Top Chef Masters… but most of us really have no idea what to do with it. White Truffles (Tuber aestivum), often called Autumn Truffles, are even more rare than Black Truffles. Their distinctive, subtle flavor uniquely complements pasta, cheese and fish dishes.