I was so excited to bring home my first organic pork tenderloin from the Rhinebeck farmer’s market that I couldn’t quite process the incredulous faces waiting for me when I got back. “It’ll take so long to cook,” the faces-at-home said, directing their eyes to their stomachs, which audibly growled.
I don’t know where the misconception about pork loin came from – probably from other round, “loaf”-like meats, which are notorious for being part of bigger dinner-time productions, typically seen around the holidays; meats that require thermometers, significant prep time, and all kinds of extra gadgets to make sure they cook the whole way through. But pork loin doesn’t require a lot of fussing. It just needs a little attention, because it is a very lean cut. And while it doesn’t take years to cook, it can cook too quickly, and come out very dry. If you do it right, though, it is perfect in less than 30 minutes.
After I trimmed the loin just a little bit to make the outside smoother, I patted the rub liberally around the outside until it had a nice brown smoky skin. The rub helps produce a very slight crustiness on the outside that adds delicious texture. This chili-powder/cocoa mixture employed as a rub is an important component, but the key to maintaining the delicious, succulent juices of this tender cut of meat is in the heating method.
The heating method I used to cook the loin is what I like to call a “switcheroo” – that is, after a few minutes browning on the stove top skillet at medium heat, I transferred the pork loin to a glass pan and allowed it to finish cooking in the oven. The initial pan-heat is meant to lock in the flavors by cooking the outermost layer of the loin and leaving less work for the oven to do. Since the oven uses a drier, slower method, and tends to be the cause of making meats dry out, it’s better to give it a simpler job: to turn the pink interior to white. The idea is to cook as much of the outside of the meat as you can before putting it on the rack.
While I waited for the oven to do its duty at around 425 F, I tossed together a nice salsa of fresh mango, minced shallot, lemon juice and cilantro; a very easy side dish which is low in carbs, despite the natural sweetness. I find that when it comes to neutral-tasting meats of any kind fresh fruit adds more flavor than any marinade.
I don’t know about your extended family but, except for me, mine is non-Primal. They are fans of fat, but still very much attached to their pasta and their bread, and their cheese – oh their cheese! Still, it is characteristic of them to be quite Primal in their responses when I am cooking pork loin – or any other Primal entrée – within their sensory trajectory. It’s not like they stand up on the table and start pounding their chests or anything, but they do start in with the “mmmm” and “ahhs”. They occasionally close their eyes after taking a bite. They always linger over the food, taking their time with it, and always clean their plates. There is a very good reason for all this, as you already know: Primal food is satisfying.
Try this dinner tonight. You won’t regret it.
1 pork loin
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
½ medium mango (sliced and cut into chunks)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ small shallot (minced)
Preheat oven to 425 F. Rinse your pork loin and trim any fat to make the surface of the loin smooth for rubbing. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder and the cocoa. Then use your hands to rub the mixture evenly over the pork.
Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Brown the tenderloin in the skillet on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Being careful not to lose the juices, transfer the pork loin to a Pyrex pan and slide into the oven. Cook for 12-15 more minutes. Check the loin after that time period by cutting into it. If still pink, cook a few minutes longer.
In a small bowl, lightly mix mango, cilantro, shallot and lemon juice. Serve with slices of pork.