Classic French Preparation: Pork Tenderloin avec Robitussin (Cough & Allergy)

First, let me tell you what the above is NOT. It is more definitely NOT a braised pork belly, which is what I had really, really wanted to make after having 2 excellent versions recently at new local fav Ox and Top Chef Season 1 Winner Harold Dieterle’s place, Perilla. The non-existent pork belly is not sitting atop a bed of braising lentils, nor is there a simply dressed salad of pea shoots alongside.

I tried to give you these things. I left my office (31st and 8th) early today to head to Whole Foods (24th and 7th) in search of the belly. There was none there, probably because there were no sufficiently virtuous pigs available this week, so I swung by the Garden of Eden (23rd and 7th) where I was similarly disappointed. It was only slightly frigid outside, so I walked down to Balducci’s (14th and 8th) where, despite the cavernous space, there was very little actual food available for purchase. So I tried the Gourmet Garage (7th Ave. South and 10th), failed, and then tried Citarella (6th and 9th). Where I gave up and decided to do a spice-crusted pork tenderloin with the blood orange gastrique I’d been planning instead.

By this point I was so tired and dehydrated – had I known it was going to be such an ordeal, I would have brought a Power Bar – that I bought a bunch of beets and 2 liters of incredibly overpriced imported iced tea for no apparent reason. On the way out, I barreled directly into Keifer Southerland, who also did not have any pork belly available but was very kind about the whole barreling-into-him thing. The beets, however, continue to mock me. Fucking beets.

You need to reduce the Robitussin to really bring out the nuances of flavor.

So, I present the judges for this month’s Royal Foodie Joust over at the Leftover Queen’s with my five spice-crusted pork tenderloin with blood orange-pink peppercorn gastrique, citrus-scented roasted butternut and carrot puree, and haricots verts bundles. I know it’s a mouthful, but that’s what we classy motherfuckers are like.

I got the gastrique going first, since I knew my tenderloins would be quick studies in the pan. A gastrique is a vinegar and sugar reduction, often flavored with something else. In this case, rice wine vinegar, blood orange juice, sugar and pink peppercorns slowly reduce over medium heat until they form a syrup that coats the back of a spoon. They also form a noxious vapor that will burn the protective membranes in your nose RIGHT OUT if you accidentally stick your face directly over the pot, like if you’re trying to take a picture. Consider yourselves warned.

Does not look like Robitussin.

While I was considering my next move, I decided that the full name of my dish wasn’t quite as long as it could be. Also, there was a pot of oil still sitting on the stove from last night’s falafel that was still pretty clean. So I did what any sane person would do, and made onion rings. More like little frizzles, actually; sliced thinly, dredged quickly in flour and salted upon exiting the oil. There was, however, a massive problem with this part of the dish – namely, that I underestimated my own desire to nosh and did not make nearly enough onion rings. I’m sure many of you have suffered from the same problem at one time or another, and I accept your sympathies.

I also threw some squash and carrots into the oven to roast, but I have more important things to do than take pictures of a carrot.*


Does look like a turd.

The tenderloin had been sitting in the fridge developing a nice crust of spices. I seared it on all sides on the stove and then finished it in a 425 degree oven. This picture was artfully taken so as to obscure the fact that I used a meat thermometer to cook the pork, like a total gumshoe dork. I really wanted to make sure that I took it off the heat right around 140 so that the internal temp could rise to 155 during its rest, leaving me with a perfectly medium piece of pig lovin’. Official sources tell us it’s now safe to cook pork to 160 instead of the 180 we were previously instructed to hit, which rendered pork grey and sawdust-y. I like to live dangerously, so I shave the extra 5 degrees off.

I take a lot of pictures inside the food processor. I don’t know what that says about me.

The squash and carrots were tender and had taken on some nice color in the oven, so they went into the whizzer with a little bit of butter and some blood orange zest – just enough to suggest a citrusy floralness, not enough to read as “orange.” Green beans were blanched to a bright verdancy.

I *will* build a lightbox. I *will* build a lightbox. I *will* build a lightbox.

Plating: Tenderloin cut in thirds and stood upright to show the perfectly pale-pink interiors, and drizzled with the gastrique and a few of the peppercorns. Haricots tied up in a little bundle with a strand of leek I’d blanched along with them. Squash-carrot puree tucked into an empty blood orange half and topped with frizzled onions. Why? Because I am FUCKING ADORABLE, that’s why.

And everything was really, really good. The pork was perfect at 155 – butter-knife tender but with a good crust on the outside – and the sweet and smoky five spice played well off the citrusy gastrique (which, admittedly, did end up with a frighteningly cough-syrup-like consistency and color, if not flavor). The carrots added an extra dimension to the squash puree, and the hint of zest tied the puree into the pork without making it matchy-matchy. Blanched haricots verts are what they are.

Consider yourselves jousted!

Five-Spice Pork Tenderloin with Blood Orange Gastrique and Citrus-Scented Carrot & Squash Puree

For the gastrique:
3 blood oranges, juiced
3/4 c. rice wine vinegar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. pink peppercorns, lightly crushed

Mix all the ingredients together in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat if the mixture threatens to boil over, until it reaches a syrupy consistency and coats the back of a spoon, 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat. If you like, you can strain out the peppercorns.

For the pork:
2 1/2 pound pork tenderloins
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. Chinese Five-Spice Powder
1 tbsp. canola oil

Rub the tenderloins with the salt and Five-Spice. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but up to 24.

Preheat your oven to 425. Heat the canola oil in a large oven-safe skilled until shimmering and just starting to smoke. Sear the tenderloin on all sides, then transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the meat hits an internal temperature of 140. Remove the pork to a platter and let rest for 5-10 minutes; the temperature will continue rising to about 155. Serve with the gastrique on top or alongside.

For the puree:
1/2 butternut squash
2 medium carrots
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp. butter
zest of half a blood orange

Preheat the oven to 475. Peel the squash and carrots and slice into 1-2 inch chunks; toss the chunks with the oil and salt. Roast until the veggies are tender (easily pierced with a fork) and a bit browned.

Transfer the veggies to a food processor; add the butter and zest. Process until smooth (you can also do this by hand, or run the veggies through a ricer or food mill). Serve immediately.