I never used to like pork and hardly ever cooked it. Blame it on childhood memories of overcooked fatty pork chops with even fattier pan juices if you will. Dad loved them and they were cheap, so we ate them a lot.
Once I moved to the UK, I was introduced to pork roasts and crackling. Well, to be honest, more often than not, the pork was still overcooked and the crackling wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Pun intended.
And don’t get me going on those suspicious foil bags of “pork scratchings” served as a bar snack in English pubs. Sorry, but yuk.
Trusted food experts and admired chefs kept going on and on about succulent pork and gorgeous crackling and divine pork belly though (what? That’s just pretty much 90% fat, isn’t it?). So I figured it had to have something to do with the initial quality of the pork and just as importantly, how it was cooked.
So I read up and tested and played around. I eventually discovered how to cook the various cuts in the pan, in the oven and, more recently, in a waterbath (sous vide) without it drying out. And I learned how to render the fat, so that only the beautiful meat remains. I can now even make crackling that even I like. Yay!
So I’m a pork convert. Now I simply adore Char Siu stuffed in bao buns, Chinese braised ribs and even smoked pork belly. I’ve also rediscovered pork tenderloin, the one that ALWAYS used to end up dry due to being so incredibly lean.
This pork tenderloin is far from dry. Even if you chose to pan fry or oven roast, it’s protected by its layers of prosciutto, both inside and out, but also its layer of herb butter to make up for the lack of natural fat.
The jus is optional, as the luscious filling ensures this tenderloin is delectable enough to be devoured as is. But I kinda like a little extra sauciness.
Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Sage, Proscuitto and a Marsala Jus (Serves 2-3 – GF LC RSF)
Don’t confuse pork tenderloin with pork loin, which is a larger cut more suited for roasting. Tenderloin is the fillet of the pork, pretty much the prime cut of the pig.
I cooked this in a waterbath (sous vide), but I am providing instructions to pan-fry and roast as well.
TIP: you can make the sauce up to the cream stage in advance, then use it to deglaze the pan and heat through while the pork is resting, adding the optional cream right before serving.
1 pork tenderloin, approx 500-600 gr
2 tbsp softened butter plus 1/2 tbsp for frying
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
2-3 sprigs of fresh sage, leaves only
2-3 sprigs of parsley
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
100 gr semi-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
a good handful of rocket or spinach
70 gr feta
100 gr Prosciutto
For the optional jus:
150 ml Marsala, Madeira, white wine or cider
150 ml pork or chicken stock
1 tbsp whipping cream or creme fraiche (optional)
For serving: Herb roasted carrots, potato croquettes or mash
Blitz the butter with the thyme, parsley, rosemary, half of the sage leaves, the garlic and seasoning in a mini food processor or combine using a pestle and mortar. Set aside.
Trim any excess fat and silver skin from the pork tenderloin. Butterfly it by cutting 3/4 through the middle lengthwise, and then cutting each of those halves 3/4 lengthwise again. You should now have a flat-ish piece of pork.
Cover the pork with a piece of greaseproof paper and get your aggression out by battering it with a rolling pin or meat hammer until thin and flat.
Season with pepper. You won’t need salt because of the salty prosciutto that will be on both the inside and the outside.
Spread the herb butter over the pork. Then cover with half of the prosciutto. Scatter rocket or spinach lengthwise on one side of the pork. Top with the tomatoes, then crumble over the feta.
Push the filling down to compact it a bit, then gently but tightly roll up the pork to encase the filling.
Lay the remaining prosciutto onto a board or your work surface, length next to length, slightly overlapping,
Gently place your pork roll at the top of the slices.
Top with a few sage leaves. Then roll into the prosciutto slices. You can secure with cocktail sticks if you feel it needs it.
Sous vide method:
Heat the waterbath to your desired temperature. I cooked mine at 57 C.
If your waterbath is not very big, cut the pork roll in half, then vacuum seal each in its own bag.
Chill to set until your waterbath is ready. You could also freeze it at this stage, then defrost before cooking or add 45 mins to the cooking time.
Cook in the waterbath for 1-1 1/2 hrs. The pork can happily be cooked for up to 4 hrs, but I prefer a shorter time because of the filling within.
Remove from the bag, reserving the juices.
Heat a frying pan to medium-hot with a knob of butter. Quickly sear the pork on all sides until browned.
Pan-fry and roast method:
Roll the pork into cling film, tighten the ends and chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins or so to set.
Preheat an oven tray in the oven at 175 C.
Heat a frying pan to medium heat with a knob of butter. Sear the pork on all sides, about 3-5 mins total. Transfer to the pre-heated oven tray and roast for 10-14 mins, turning halfway. Remember it will continue cooking while it rests.
For both methods, once the pork is done, remove the pork from the pan or tray and wrap into a piece of aluminium foil to rest for a few mins or the time it takes to make or finish the jus, if using.
For the jus: add the madeira or chosen liquid to the pan, stir to scrape up any sticky bits and let it reduce over medium-high heat for 5 mins or so. Add the stock (and any juices from the pork in the sous vide bag or tray) and continue to reduce for 10 mins or so. Season to taste and turn off the heat. Add the cream, if using, and stir through until combined. Do not heat again or the sauce will likely cuddle.
Slice the pork on the diagonal and add any juices in the foil to the sauce, or drizzle over the pork if not using a sauce.
Herb Roast Carrots (serves 2-3 GF V Vg RSF DF LC)
3-4 carrots, cut into large battons
2 tbsp oil (I used oil drained from the confit garlic and semidried tomatoes)
1 clove of (Confit) garlic
leaves from 1 sprig of thyme
leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary
leaves from 2 sprigs of parsley
Preheat the oven to 190 C.
Blitz the oil in a blender with the herbs and seasoning. Toss the carrots in the herb oil and roast for 25-35 mins or until tender.