We have a freezer full of pig. Well, technically, we have a freezer full of half a pig.
Plus an entire lamb, including the head. But that's another story.
We were inspired to go the whole hog, if you pardon my pun, by an overdose of Hugh and his pigs.
Which is cuter? Hard to tell, really.
We got this half-pig, or rather this pig that was cut in half, from a local farm in the fall. We now have 80 pounds of various pig parts in the freezer. Each package is so neatly wrapped in white paper, like lumpy, meaty presents just waiting to be opened. Our half a pig makes for a rather lot of packages. The labels are small, and they're all stacked up, so it's hard to aim for something in particular.
Usually we just reach in and grab for the one that catches our fancy.
Today's grab was tenderloin.
Here in the heartland, we take a tenderloin, or t-loin, as we affectionately call it, pound it flat, dredge it in bread crumbs, deep fry it. Then, we stuff it in a too-small bun, so its embarrasing pulchritude overflows the inadequate bread mitt we use to keep a grip on the hot, crispy hubcap of a meal.
That has a certain appeal, I will not deny.
But sometimes tenderloin would like to be treated with a little more respect.
And that is truly where pork comes into its own. It has a sweet, mild taste that pairs well with a variety of flavors, but it can stand up to a little bit of heat, too. I found it hard to resist the glowing combination of green apples, orange apricots and pink peppercorns, topped with a golden zesting of Meyer Lemon. It's a veritable rainbow of colors that cuts through the dreary winter weather and also makes a surprisingly complex combination of flavors - sharp, tart, citrusy, with zing from small pops of scattered pink peppercorn.
When stuffing a tenderloin, you want to make as much surface area as possible to spread the filling onto. I used a knife to cut open this 2-pound pork loin roast with tenderloin, a little like unfolding a book. It naturally fell open along the muscle bundles, and then I cut lengthways from the center to the left about two-thirds of the way through, and from the center to the right, about two-thirds of the way through, and opened up each side.
If you have a thinner tenderloin you may only be able to cut it once, but be careful not to cut completely through the meat, as you want to be able to unfold it. Your tenderloin may not fully wrap around to meet in the middle. If you want to further increase the surface area, you can pound it a little flatter with a meat tenderizer or flat-bottomed heavy pot.
All that's left to do is apply the stuffing and tie up the tenderloin around it, and you have a showstopper of a dinner.
Pork Tenderloin with Apple, Apricot and Pink Peppercorn Stuffing.
Serves 8 to 10.
One 2 pound pork tenderloin or loin roast
1/2 pound breakfast sausage or other mild sausage
1 Granny Smith Apple
1/2 cup dried apricot
1 Meyer Lemon
1 generous tablespoon pink peppercorns
Salt and pepper
You will also need a large roasting pan and kitchen twine.
Assemble the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl. Zest the lemon, and juice half of it. Core and chop the apple into 1-cm sized pieces, leaving the skin on. Chop the apricots into 1-cm sized pieces. Remove the sausage from the casing, if necessary. Combine all the ingredients together. The mixture will not blend well, but the fruits will mix into the sausage meat. Add the pink peppercorns and mix through.
Open the tenderloin up according to the directions above, until you have a rough rectangle. Squeeze the remaining half lemon over, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Distribute the stuffing ingredients evenly down the center of the tenderloin.
Cut a piece of twine that is 5 or 6 incles longer than the width of the tenderloin. Work it under one end of the tenderloin, and gently bring the twine up and tie it off. The tenderloin may not meet at the top, and that's just fine. Try to keep the stuffing in, but also to tie fairly snugly. If any stuffing squeezes out, just stuff it back in again. Continue to tie until the entire tenderloin is bundled up in a long, narrow roll.
You can refrigerate the tenderloin, rolled, for up to a day. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Make a snug nest of aluminum foil that fits around the tenderloin, to catch the juices. Place the tenderloin and foil nest in a large roasting tray. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 35o degrees F and roast for a further 45 minutes, until the meat registers 145 degrees F. Baste with the juices every 15 or 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, place onto a warmed plate, cover, and allow to rest for 10 or 15 minutes before serving.
Remember to remove the twine before you eat!
Make a gravy with the juices if you want, and serve with a green salad.