Pity the poor, misunderstood pork tenderloin, victim of the pig’s wrongful reputation for fat! This delicious and tender cut of meat is in fact very lean, carrying about the same amount of fat and cholesterol as skinless chicken breast. (Yes I was surprised to learn that too) But the flavor far surpasses mere chicken! When properly cooked, pork tenderloin has a delicate, almost sweet flavor that’s perfectly suited to a variety of marinating and glazing techniques. It’s absolutely one of my favourite cuts of meat.
For this particular recipe I came up with a marinade of Nigori sake (a sweet, unfiltered sake), soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and wasabi powder. The slightly sweet flavor of the Nigori sake plays off beautifully against the bite of the wasabi powder. I then created a glaze of coconut milk, hoisin sauce and tamarind, which I painted on during the cooking. The glaze caramelizes to a rich black brown color and lends a nice depth to the flavor profile. For this shot we seared the tenderloin in a pan and then put it in the oven to finish cooking. However this recipe also works beautifully on the barbecue. Either way, the secret to keeping this cut of meat tender and juicy is not to over cook it. Cook it until the meat just firms up to the touch and then take it off to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.
The tricky part of the shot came with arranging these items on the plate. We started out with one concept for the presentation, then had to make a hard left turn and try something completely different. Find out why it’s important to always remain flexible when shooting food. Read about it here.
Since we’re in the middle of the BBQ season, I thought I could start off with a delicious and different barbecue marinade that I came up with recently. It’s sort of a spin on the Mexican Molé Poblano, which combines chilies, chocolate and a whole whack of other ingredients in a dark brown sauce. I had recently eaten a truly horrible Molé at a Queen St., Mexican restaurant that shall go unnamed, so I guess I had the flavor on my mind.
In a big bowl I combined dark cocoa, lime juice, a pinch or two of Chile Pepper and a few dashes of Waha Wera Kiwifruit & Habanero Chili Sauce . This sweet but hot sauce is available from The Spice Trader on Queen St., West near Trinity Bellwood Park. Somehow the flavor of the cocoa, combined with a little sweetness from the kiwi and the heat of the spices, all blended with the lime juice just sets off flavor explosions! I threw in some chicken legs and let them marinate for a few hours (or overnight if you have the time), then tossed them on the barbecue.
Here’s a little tip for marinades, especially with chicken. Once you’ve made the marinade, set some of it aside and use that to brush on the chicken as it cooks. You shouldn’t use the marinade that the chicken has sat in since it contains raw chicken. I cooked the chicken relatively slowly over slightly cooled charcoal so it wouldn’t burn too much on the outside, brushing a bit of the marinade on towards the end for a bit of an extra flavor punch.
Roasted corn goes great with this recipe. My friend Nadia, whose family comes from Pakistan, recently showed me a tasty way of treating roasted corn. Combine paprika (or smoked paprika) with cayenne and a bit of sea salt. Cut lime or lemon wedges, dip them in the spice mix and rub them on the corn. A lively (and healthy) change from the old salt and butter! The kiwi and strawberry salad, sprinkled with finely chopped mint and just a drizzle of honey, adds a nice balance to the meal (and helps cool the palate).