Did I mention Food and Wine really knocked it out of the park with this April issue? I haven’t been able to pull myself away from their recipes from this issue just yet to explore anything else – most of my other food magazines had a lot of Easter lamb things that just don’t really work for a weeknight dinner.
This cider brined pork tenderloin, despite having a daunting hour and a half prep time plus overnight brining, is actually an incredibly simple weeknight recipe. I made the brine in about 10 minutes at 11 pm the night before (having almost completely forgotten about it), then simply cooked and roasted the pork and apples and carrots for dinner the next day.
Although similar to a marinade, brines differ by the addition of salt as opposed to acid. The salt changes the cellular structure and allows it to hold in more moisture. If you are extremely curious about the science behind brining, Cooking for Engineers has a great write up here.
I was excited by this recipe, since my experiences brining turkey with apple cider and bourbon transformed a dry bird into a tasty and anticipated treat. This brine was extremely similar to that magical turkey brine, and I had all the brine ingredients on hand.
If you enjoy pork tenderloin in the least, you must make this recipe. The brine penetrates the pork with the flavor of apples and spices and tenderizes it even more, a feat for this already tender cut. The roasted apples are incredible. I was a little skeptical of pairing them with carrots, but that was ridiculous – it was delicious. The sauce that goes on top has a slight acidity that pairs perfectly with the sweetness of pork and apples.
I would like be eating this again, right now, and I slightly resent the fact that I am not.
Cider-Brined Pork Tenderloins with Roasted Apples
(Food and Wine, April 2014) – Recipe by Hugh Acheson
- My biggest regret with this recipe is that I poo-pooed the necessity of two pork tenderloins for two people and just made one. That was a terrible mistake. We ate it all and then stood in the kitchen staring sadly at the pan.
- Double the apples and carrots. I did not and also regretted it.
- Target sells an adorable tiny maple syrup that contains about five tablespoons for $2.50. I never use maple syrup and didn’t feel like dropping $7 on a large container, so this was perfect.
- In a fit of spice rage some time back I ground all my coriander. This did not seem to affect the recipe in any way.
- I used my cast iron skillet to take the pork from the stove to the oven instead of dirtying a second baking sheet.
- This is somewhat shameful and I have included it last, but I did not use real apple cider. I used a powdered apple cider mix. It was fine. Be freed from the tyranny of fresh pressed cider!
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- Kosher salt
- 4 cups ice
- Two 1- to 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloins
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 3 tablespoons sorghum syrup or pure maple syrup
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound medium carrots, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
- 2 Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apples—peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- In a large saucepan, combine the cider, cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander, crushed red pepper, garlic and 3 tablespoons of kosher salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat, add the ice and let cool completely. Pour the brine into a bowl and add the pork tenderloins, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 450°. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar with the shallot, thyme and sorghum syrup and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes; discard the thyme sprigs. Whisk in the butter and season lightly with salt; keep warm.
- On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots with the apples, orange juice and olive oil; season with salt. Roast in the lower third of the oven, stirring once, until tender and browned in spots, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, drain the pork tenderloins and cut them in half crosswise; discard the brine. Pat the pork dry and season lightly with salt. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil until shimmering. Add half the pork and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pork to a rimmed baking sheet. Wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil and pork. Roast the pork in the upper third of the oven for about 12 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 140°. Transfer the pork to a work surface and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Slice the pork and transfer to plates. Drizzle the sauce on top and serve with the roasted carrots and apples.