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A Fourth of July Recipe: Pork Tenderloin and Sour Onion Salsa

In keeping with tradition around here, I wanted to put up a recipe for the holiday. It’s pretty hot out there for standing next to a grill (but I’ll be doing that later today anyway!) Here’s one that gets made around here at Pipeline Headquarters fairly often. It’s not something that can be whipped up quickly (it needs some marinating time), but maybe for the coming weekend. The pork tenderloin recipe is similar to many others floating around, and can be added to and adapted as needed. The onion salsa is adapted from a Steve Raichlen recipe in The Barbecue Bible, a book I’ve had a very high success rate with.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Here are the quantities for marinating one pork tenderloin (400 to 500 grams / circa one pound). You can adjust to suit your needs, of course:
40g salt (see Note 1)
50g brown sugar (or three tablespoons)
15g Dijon mustard (one tablespoon)
Two cups water
One pod of star anise
1g whole black peppercorns (1/2 teaspoon)
Two bay leaves
Dissolve the salt, sugar, and mustard in the water. Crush the anise pod and peppercorns (mortar and pestle if you have one, whacked in foil or plastic wrap if not) and add them and the bay leaves to the mix. Soak the pork tenderloin in this brine (plastic bag or covered bowl) for several hours in a refrigerator – overnight is good.
Remove the pork from the treatment vat and grill it over high heat for ten minutes, turning it to brown the surface. Then reduce the heat, or move it to a less directly heated part of your grill, and cook it there until its juices run clear. (See Note 2). Let the meat rest off the grill for a few minutes, then slice and serve.
Note 1: this is in the “2 or three tablespoons” range of something like Morton kosher salt, but salts vary tremendously in density. Notoriously, the two leading brands of kosher salt in the US, Morton’s and Diamond Crystal, are off by nearly a factor of two, a conversion which has led many to grief. Table salt is denser still – see the link.
Note 2: These are not very scientific directions, but grilling is not a very scientific form of cooking – everyone’s heat source is different, and things are hard to quantify. The brining treatment will generally keep this meat from drying out so quickly – a good think, since unbrined pork tenderloin can get that way quite easily. But you’ll need to use your own judgment here. If you’re not grilling this, you can brown the outside in a hot oiled pan and then bake it, or carefully broil it, with frequent turning, to achieve a similar effect.
Sour Onion Salsa
1 large red onion
125 mL fresh lime juice
125 mL orange juice
12 g salt (two teaspoons of table salt)
Peel the onion and cut a slice off the stem end. Place that flat side down and cut the onion into six or eight wedges. Grill these on both sides (the root end will hold them together as they cook) until they’re somewhat charred. Remove them from the grill, let them cool a bit, then trim off the root ends and add the salt and citrus juices. Let these marinate at least a half hour at room temperature, stirring every so often.

10 comments on “A Fourth of July Recipe: Pork Tenderloin and Sour Onion Salsa”

  1. JBosch says:

    Here’s mine:
    slow smoked standing rib (takes about 4 hours + preparation time).
    * find some outstanding standing rib (essentially prime rib, but cut differently as far as I can tell)
    * rub it lightly with some olive oil (just to allow herbs to adhere to it later)
    * create a mix of your preferred herbs with salt and crush them in a mortar (not the one on your lab bench though)
    * here’s my mix: 2 teaspoons Himalayan salt, 2 table spoons fresh dice thyme, 2 table spoons marjoram, freshly ground pepper to your desire
    * rub the salt-herb mixture onto the standing rib and let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature
    * in the meantime start your smoker to heat up to 115˚C, soak some wood pellets in water but don’t add them yet to your smoker.
    * place your rib upright into the smoker (if you want add a thermometer to control the doneness of your rib)
    * after closing the smoker you can relax, add the soaked wood pellets to your smoker and allow smoke to develop. Once the smoke stops add more if you like
    * wait, drink and enjoy chatting for about 4 hours
    * or prepare e.g. a nice mixed salad to serve with the rib

  2. Hugo says:

    You made me very happy with this. Not for the recipe alone (I shall try that as well), but for the fact that you specified the whole thing in metric.
    It’s a refreshing change not to have to convert from “cups” or some slightly-misaligned imperial (US imperial volume /= UK imperial volume).
    Thank you, and keep up the good work. 🙂
    [Next up, A4 paper and ISO 8601 date format: YYYY-MM-DD]

  3. Kelvin says:

    Which type of salt should I use? Sodium chloride, magnesium sulphate, or something else? And brown sugar, is that just partially caramelised sucrose? I should be able to rustle this together from the lab…

  4. Jonathan says:

    Are the quantities given supposed to be for an entire pork tenderloin, or per half-kilo?
    Maybe I’m just lucky, but where I buy them a pork tenderloin usually weighs a couple of kilos, not the 400-500g mentioned.

  5. milfshake says:

    using the metric system on the fourth of july? (shakes head).

  6. Lars says:

    I have to second Hugo here. Bravo for the use of the metric system!

  7. Derek Lowe says:

    Those are quantities for about a pound of meat – you’ll want to adjust upwards for the larger tenderloins. Probably the most crucial thing is the salt concentration. Brining really does make a difference for this cut of pork.

  8. anonymous says:

    For the old farts that still grill over charcoal, I’ve had very good success over “standard” coal quantities (1–2 coals thick, mixed) using ~5–6 min per side (i.e., 20–25 min MAX) even WITHOUT brining…not that I have anything against it mind you!

  9. John Wayne says:

    I’m fairly amused that Derek used ‘notes’ in the recipe just like Organic Synthesis. In contrast to some other procedures, people may line up to be checkers (or at least tasters) for this one.

  10. ScientistSailor says:

    I usually rinse the brine off the meat with fresh (DI) water, then pat dry with paper towel before grilling, otherwise it ends up too salty for my taste…

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