After races, I normally treat myself to a huge porterhouse steak that evening. For this year’s Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, I decided to switch it up and make Brined Pork Tenderloin from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home for my post-race victory meal instead. I have made this pork tenderloin several times before and it has become one of my go-to recipes for an easy but spectacular dinner. Before this cookbook, I hadn’t thought of brining pork before but now I can’t imagine not brining pork. With garlic, honey, rosemary, and peppercorns among other herbs and spices, Thomas Keller’s pork brine adds a nice subtle flavor to the pork which comes out of the oven nice and juicy. Brining is really the way to go.
The one downside to this recipe that making this recipe requires a bit of advanced planning due to the time it takes to make the brine, let it cool, and then brine the tenderloin. I think it’s totally worth it and simplify the recipe a bit by not using preserved lemons (which Keller instructs you to make yourself). While I love planning meals, preserving lemons two weeks ahead of time is a little bit more than I can handle. Additionally, I find that fresh lemons work very well and add a nice acidity and brightness to the dish. For this particular foray into brined pork tenderloin, I made the brine and brined the tenderloin the day before, letting the tenderloin chill in the fridge until an hour before cooking time and then bringing it to room temperature before searing. Roommate Alex made brussels sprouts as a side and together we enjoyed a laid back and satisfying Sunday dinner. I still maintain that a post-race porterhouse is the way to go, but am glad I mixed it up this once.
Pork Brine (from Ad Hoc at Home)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
3 large rosemary sprigs
1/2 bunch (1/2 ounce thyme)
1/2 bunch (about 2 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup garlic cloves, crushed, skin left on
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 cup Diamond brand Crystal kosher salt (if using another brand of kosher salt, such as Morton, only use 5 ounces)
8 cups water
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to three days.
Brined Pork Tenderloin (adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)
Pork Brine, cold
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 1/4 pounds each), silverskin and excess fat removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, smashed, skin left on
6 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
8 slices of lemon
Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the pork and add the pork. Refrigerate for 3 hours (do not brine the pork for longer than 4 hours or the pork may become too salty).
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour some canola oil into a large frying pan or small roasting pan large enough to hold the pork and heat over medium-high heat until hot.
Transfer the meat to a roasting pan. Overlap the lemon slices down the length of the tenderloins and top with the garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Roast until the internal temperature is 135° to 140°F (use the latter if you prefer your pork less pink), about 20 minutes.Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for 15 minutes for medium-rare to medium.
Slice the pork on the diagonal into 1/2 – to 3/4 – inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices on a serving platter and garnish with the garlic, rosemary, and lemons.