Sometimes serendipity leads to genius. Recently, I happened to pick up a nice looking pork tenderloin from the store. I had planned on making tomato confit, and wanted a nice, rich meat to go with the sweet flavors of the tomatoes. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to prepare the meat, but I figured something would come to me.
When I got home from my shopping excursion, I started on the tomato confit, which is a really simple recipe. I like to cut up my tomatoes into cubes or small pieces. I also remove most of the seeds, using only the flesh of the tomato. You can make tomato confit with any type of tomato you like, but I prefer to use heirlooms, if not for the fact that you can get a nice colorful blend of tomato pieces: red, green, yellow, purple. This time around, I added a few cut up tomatillos and groudcherries to the tomatoes, for a nice addition to flavors and textures.
For tomato confit, combine the following ingredients in a baking dish:
5-10 heirloom tomatoes, cut into cubes
5 tomatillos, cut into cubes
1/2 c. groundcherries (cape gooseberries), husks removed
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Salt and pepper
I use just enough olive oil to make sure all the tomato pieces are covered generously. Remember, confit consists of cooking items in fat at a low temperature. Place your baking dish in the oven, set at 275 degrees, and walk away for an hour or two. When your tomatoes are soft, sweet, when you almost have a tomato jam, you are done. Let the mixture cool and place in a jar. You can put this on everything. No, really.
When it came time to figure out the pork, I asked Joseph to mix up a spice blend for the meat. I was going to sear the meat, then finish it in the oven.
Here’s what he came up with:
1 tbs. mustard
1 /2 tbs. honey
Salt and Pepper
We rubbed this all over the meat, then seared in a very hot pan to brown the outside. Once all sides are browned, which should only take you about 10 minutes, place in a very hot oven, about 450 degrees, and let it complete cooking. When the internal temperature of the meat hits 145 degrees, take it out. Let it rest for about 10 minutes on a cutting board. Then, slice and serve immediately.
Recently, the guideline for internal temperature of cooked pork has been lowered to 145 degrees, down from the 160 of the past. (See this article.) Personally, I like rare meat and just over 145 is great for my taste. You can, naturally, cook your pork to a higher temperature than that, but I would strongly recommend you stop cooking the meat when the internal temperature hits between 145-155 degrees. Remember, your meat’s temperature will rise a bit while resting. Also, you will end up with a nice juicy piece of meat with a great texture when you cook it to a slightly lower temperature. I find 160 yields dry, tougher meat.
Cooking aside, what I was completely unready for was the flavor. The simple rub gave a beautifully rounded, aromatic flavor. The combination of the herbs, the slightly pungent taste of mustard, and the sweetness of the honey not only made a great crust on the outside of the tenderloin, but tasted wonderful. We served it with tomato confit on a slice of homemade Asiago cheese bread, and a sautee of Brussels sprouts, onions and mushrooms.
All in all, this was a great Fall time meal. It is simple to make and packed full of flavor.