Vivek brings the the cooking IQ up a few notches with Higher Learning!
Pork tenderloin is really a steal. I absolutely love using it and come to it often for dinner that needs to be prepared quickly or for a cut elegant enough to serve to guests. It’s like the filet mignon of the pig and actually has less fat than a boneless, skinless chicken breast. What’s more is that it’s also pretty affordable – I got a piece that serves 2 people easily for $4.50.
For this month’s higher learning series, I really wanted to focus on a basic preparation – pan roasting. This technique is used in a lot of restaurants and is a valuable one to learn for home cooking as well. Essentially, you sear a piece of meat in a pan on your stove until it gets nicely caramelized. Then, you stick it in the oven to allow it to cook through, without becoming overly burnt on the outside. You can use this technique if you are cooking beef, chicken, fish, duck, or even some vegetables.
Pork chops and grits are huge where I’m from in the South – it’s a perfect combination. But I wanted to tweak the idea a little bit to help elevate the dish to the standard we have on Higher Learning. In order to do that, I’ve wrapped the pork tenderloin in very thin pieces of pancetta, which is an Italian style cured bacon (but not smoked), that lends tons of flavor and enough fat to the party. The grits are creamy, comforting, and delicious. With some sauteed bell peppers to add some depth to the dish and some grated lemon zest to add acidity, this is a dish you can easily have for dinner or entertain with. Go forth with faith, my friends.
For the pork:
2 pork tenderloins
10 very thin slices of pancetta
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, zested
For the grits:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup white corn grits
2 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
First, make the grits. Put the cream and milk into a pot and bring to a simmer. Season the milk with salt and then add the grits, stirring constantly, until they are cooked through – about 15 minutes. Add the butter and parmesan cheese and whisk to incorporate. Taste the grits – if they are seasoned well with salt, simply add pepper. If it needs salt, add some along with a few cranks of black pepper. Keep the grits over a very low flame so they are nice and creamy. If the grits begin to set, simply add some more milk and whisk them until they are at the proper consistency.
Second, let’s get the pork going. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Unroll the pancetta so that way instead of looking like a circle, it looks like a skinny long string of cured pork. Then, wrap that around the pork tenderloin (about 5 slices per tenderloin) until its covered. Season the meat with salt and black pepper. Get a pan over medium high heat and put some oil in it. When the oil just starts to smoke, add the pancetta wrapped tenderloins into the pan and begin to sear on all sides. Keep turning the meat every 2 minutes until all sides of the pork are golden brown and the pancetta is crispy. Then, throw the pan in the oven for about 5-6 minutes until the pork registers at 140 degrees. Remove the pork from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. The pork should be blushing and juicy.
When you remove the tenderloins from the pan, add the chopped bell peppers and season them with salt. Let cook for about 2-3 minutes in the residual heat of the pan and remove them.
To assemble the dish, lay some grits on the plate. Cut a few slices of pork and put it on top of the grits. Garnish the whole thing with some bell peppers and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a grating of lemon zest.
Hope you all enjoy this dish and welcome new techniques into your home cooking.