Okay. I’ve had a crummy go of endurance sport lately (entries as to why are coming), so I thought I’d do this one about my other great love. I’m going to teach you how to make a pork tenderloin salad.
Figure about 1 pork tenderloin for 4 people. Now, pork tenderloin is wonderfully inexpensive and a very lean and healthy piece of meat. I simply can’t let that happen. To keep it wonderfully moist and happy, I’m gonna bard the little bastard with bacon. Barding is the technique of wrapping a lean piece of meat in some sort of fat before you roast it. Caul fat is the traditional fat of choice, but when you have bacon….. well….. does any more need to be said?
First, I get the grill going to a level roughly equivalent to the “I’m giving her all I’ve got, Captain…. the engines canny take it much longer” intensity. I put a pot on to boil with a little bit of water, and blanch the bacon for a minute or two, then straining and shocking with cold water. I do this to take away some of the saltiness of the bacon and add some moisture so that it won’t crisp up tooquickly. It takes about seven regular slices of bacon to wrap a tenderloin. Then I slice some onions into thin rounds, square off some carrots and slice them into little rectangles. The length and width of the rectangles aren’t important, but make sure their depth is very regular, about 1/4 inch… The squared off carrots are at the top, the slices at the bottom:
(Don’t worry about the scraps…. the kids LOVE raw carrots and the pieces that are too small are destined to make the soffritto for the meat sauce I’ll make for tomorrow.) I also quarter some baby bella mushrooms. If there’s anything here you don’t like and want to leave out or something you want to add, go right the hell ahead. It’s your salad!
I hit everything with a generous glug of olive oil, and then toss with a few pinches of salt and pepper. I then gather my mise en place (all my crap) and head out to the grill:
I’m going to sear the tenderloin off before I bard it to amp up the flavor, which is why you see the loose bacon. I toss the tenderloin, the onions, and as many carrots as I can on the hotter than hell grill. The goal here is to char the onions and carrots a bit and sear the tenderloin, but NOT cook it through. I want high heat to really give the stuff some color in a short amount of time. The onions go quickly so they’re soon replaced by the rest of the carrots and the mushrooms:
Next come the barding (turn the grill WAY down now). You’ll use toothpicks to make sure the bacon stays on the pork but please please PLEASE count the toothpicks you use… biting into a toothpick will kill any bacon buzz you’ve induced in your guests. I lay mine out in groups of five, and make sure I use all in a group. That way I know if, at the end, I recovered them all:
Then it’s back on the grill, but this time on the quarter sheet pan for a slower roast with the cover on. The great thing about grilling stuff is that it adds so much flavor but that doesn’t mean I can’t add more. While the loin is roasting I work up a quick vinaigrette. The only hard and fast rule for a vinaigrette is 1 part acid to 4 parts oil, and that, like the Pirate Code, is more of a guideline, really. Since I hate hate hate cleaning a garlic press I take a clove of garlic, chop it up, add some kosher salt as a grinding compound and smear it to a fine paste with my knife. Takes me a lot less time then it would to clean a garlic press. (Did I mention I hate cleaning garlic presses?) I toast a few tablespoons of sesame seeds, smash them in a mortar and pestle and then toss them in with the garlic and a tablespoon each of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and tarragon vinegar. In goes a good pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a tablespoon or two of fresh minced tarragon. Then I add about a tablespoon of dijon mustard (adds great flavor and keeps the oil and acid emulsified together… if you’ve noticed, making dressing really is ‘a little bit o’ this, a little bit o’ that’). Then I start dribbling in some olive oil and some sesame oil, in equal parts, while whisking pretty vigorously.
When the tenderloin hits 145… the guidelines used to be higher because of the admittedly awful possibility of slurping up the trichinae worm… but farm-raised pork are pretty much guaranteed to be wormless… I rescue the tenderloin off the grill, rest it for at least 5 minutes (usually 10), remove the bacon and crisp it up on the grill:
I toss the grilled veggies, chopped bacon and mushrooms in with some spring greens and about half of the dressing, then slice the tenderloin and lay it on top, serving the rest of the dressing as a dipping sauce. Make it and you’ll see why it makes me go, “mmmmmmmmmmmmmm………….”