As the main attraction for my sister’s birthday dinner, I made a slightly adapted version of Thomas Keller’s brined pork tenderloin from Ad Hoc at Home. One component, slices of cured lemon required 2 weeks advance notice to prepare. That didn’t happen. I decided to just omit lemons entirely.
I also omitted fresh rosemary from both the brine and pork because I didn’t have any, but I used plenty of thyme and other herbs and spices. This pork was incredibly juicy and flavorful. Although the pork wasn’t salty, I think brining the pork shy of 4 hours wouldn’t hurt it either.
My pork was pink and juicy when I cut it, but unfortunately it sat for a few minutes before I was able to plate and the residual heat made the pink tone on the exterior of the slices fade, but they were still pink and perfect inside! Take my word for it!
Even without the cured lemons, I think this tenderloin is great. The brine adds a lot of flavor and helps maintain juiciness in this very lean cut of meat. It is the perfect canvas for the sweet carrots and peppery parsnips with which it shares a plate.
Makes 2 quarts, or enough for up to 4 pounds of pork
(Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
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.
*Note* This is the full recipe for the brine, but when I made it I actually scaled everything by 3/4. I had about 3 pounds of pork (not a full 4 pounds) so I figured I didn’t need the full amount of brine. You can easily make the whole recipe (which I’ve shared), or scale it down as I did.
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 (1 ounce) unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, smashed, skin left on
6 thyme sprigs
Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the pork and add the pork. Refrigerate for 4 hours (no longer, or the pork may become too salty).
Remove the pork (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry. Let the tenderloin sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set a roasting rack in a roasting pan.
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.
Season the tenderloins with kosher salt and pepper, add to the pan and sear, turning them occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes.
Add the butter, garlic, and thyme and cook, tilting the pan and using the spoon to baste the pork with the juices, for 2 minutes.
Transfer the meat to the roasting rack. 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 and thyme.