[Ed.'s note- every Monday, Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column about eating and preparing food in the Paris on the Prairie. Have at it, Jason! -Max]
The Pork Tenderloin
By Jason Hissong
17 August 09
Let me be perfectly clear: every time I eat a piece of meat I know it was once a live animal. This is an entry-point into a discussion that would take too long here, as it’s complex and multi-faceted. But, for me, every time I touch a piece of meat the thought crosses my mind at least once.
Second: this might be my favorite cut of meat from my favorite food-animal. The tenderloin is the muscle that sits inside the ribcage and runs along the spine. Because it’s not heavily worked, it is very tender. It’s from this muscle that we get the savory filet mignon.
So, how does one prepare tenderloin? In my experience I have: grilled, braised, seared then roasted, roasted without searing, seared then cut into medallions to grill, and I’ve put it in the slow cooker, all day- which is what I’m doing today.
I like this method because while it’s very time consuming, most of the time is idle. That is, the cook has little to do while the tenderloin cooks. What I usually do is this: I put my cast iron skillet on high and let it heat up. Then, without adding oil, I put the tenderloin in. It will probably smoke, but don’t worry. The meat will hiss and crack but that’s a good sound. I sear it for about 45 seconds and then turn it, until all sides are seared.
I then move the tenderloin to the slow cooker where it will cook for seven hours or so. Going back to the pan, I use white wine, beer, stock or, if my pantry is dry, water, to get up the bits off the pan and add some aromatics to sweat- usually onion, garlic, carrots. I then take this pan of flavor and add it to the tenderloin in the slow cooker.
Wait seven hours. On low.
While the meat is cooking I like to make my own bbq sauce. I have four or five standard recipes, including one featured on this site – but this, like the opening paragraph’s topic- gets into a dense, complicated discussion about barbeque and sauces and really, at the end of the day, what you like is what you like. I like mine on the spicy side, and less sweet, so I’ll add crushed red pepper flakes or hot peppers if I have some.
After the meat is done, I take the tenderloin out of the slow cooker to my meat-only cutting board and let it rest, draining the slow cooker in the meantime. I then take two forks and start, literally, pulling the tenderloin to pieces for pulled pork sandwiches.
Anyway, add the sauce back to the meat in the slow cooker and let it simmer for about ½ an hour or so. Then grab some Kaiser rolls or similar bread and pile it on. Simple. Delicious. Satisfying.
What I’ve cooked this week: grilled tilapia in packets with lemon-olive oil and garlic, with fresh green beans and rice.
What others have cooked for me this week: Filet with sweet potatoes and green beans.
Where I’ve eaten this week: I went to Omaha this week. My parents fed me well: Ted Montana’s Strip (bison) with cole slaw and asparagus. Boxer’s BBQ for the brisket sandwich. Village Inn for a dynamite Belgian waffle.