For years, before I had a food blog, I primarily cooked Cooks Illustrated recipes. I did worry about whether I was relying on them too much and if I was creative enough, but because I was making great food and learning useful tricks, I didn’t think too much of it. The main problem I had was that CI’s schtick is to perfect common recipes, so while I was making very good versions of familiar foods, I rarely tried unfamiliar flavor combinations.
To solve this problem, I bought their Restaurant Favorites at Home cookbook. And then I started a food blog, found other fun recipes to try, and this cookbook mostly got ignored. Feeling uninspired recently, I did a quick flip through it and lucked into something perfect – an opportunity to use rhubarb while it’s in season, plus a type of meat that I underutilitize.
Pork tenderloin seems underappreciated, considering that it’s the pig version of filet mignon. Plus one tenderloin is such a perfect serving size for two people, and it’s easy to cook. Season, set in a hot pan, flip. Then maximize flavor by using the fond in a sauce – a sauce with reduced port and rhubarb.
As much as I do like sweet sauces with pork, the ratio of rhubarb to meat was too much for me. I’d prefer about half of the amount of sauce because it overpowered the meat. The other, less important, change I needed to make was to cook the rhubarb for a lot less time, previous to adding it to the rest of the sauce ingredients. Reaching the recommended “softened but still retains its shape” texture took about half the time as the recipe implies.
With those very easy adjustments, this was a simple and elegant seasonal main dish. I love rhubarb, so I’m happy with any chance I get to eat it, and especially with one of my favorite cuts of meat.
One year ago: La Palette’s Strawberry Tart
Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb Sauce (from Cooks Illustrated’s Restaurant Favorites at Home)
This is the original recipe. Next time I make it, I’ll halve the rhubarb and the sugar (using 3 stalks of rhubarb and 6 tablespoons of sugar) and keep a close eye on the rhubarb while it cooks in Step 1, counting on it being tender after about 15 minutes of cooking. Also, I found it unnecessary to pound the meat – I just squashed it down a bit.
6 large rhubarb stalks, cut into ½ inch dice (about 4 cups)
¾ cup sugar
3 small pork tenderloins (12-16 ounces each, for a total of 2.5-3 pounds), trimmed of silver skin and excess fat
salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup ruby port
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1. Cook the rhubarb and sugar together in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat until the rhubarb has softened but still retains its shape, 25-35 minutes.
2. Cut each pork tenderloin crosswise into six 2-inch-thick slices. With a cut side facing up, lightly pound each slice into a round ¾-inch-thick medallion. Season the medallions generously with salt and pepper.
3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat until just smoking. Lay 9 medallions in the pan and cook until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the medallions and cook on the second side until lightly browned and nearly cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a clean plate and keep warm in the oven. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining 9 medallions. Transfer to the plate in the oven.
4. Add the port and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the port is thick and syrupy, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and any accumulated rhubarb juices and return to a simmer. Simmer until the mixture is thick and has reduced to about ½ cup, about 12 minutes. Stir in the rhubarb mixture and any accumulated juices from the pork medallions and heat through, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange 3 pork medallions on each of 6 individual plates and spoon about ¼ cup of the rhubarb sauce over the top. Serve immediately.