Have you ever had one of those days that just flies by? They say time flies when you’re having fun. I can’t argue that. In fact sometimes the days that fly quickly can feel very productive. However for me they are often also the ones that I find myself most challenged to throw together a healthy, but non-boring dinner. The best strategy I’ve found on these days is to try to creatively use what I have on hand, while keeping things relatively simple using as few ingredients and pans as possible. That’s precisely how this recipe came together.
A simple recipe does not have to equate to culinary boredom. In fact, I could argue that a simple recipe using very few ingredients can be just as appealing and delicious as an elaborate recipe when well executed. This recipe uses balsamic vinegar which is definitely on the sweeter side of the vinegar family. As I learned from the documentary “Babe’, “Pork is a nice, sweet meat”, so pairing the two seemed logical. Balsamic vinegar and grapes are also pretty good comrades, because well…they’re close relatives! Balsamic Vinegar is made from a reduction of cooked white Trebbiano grape juice. (Yes, I totally had to look that up!)Fun Fact: Balsamic vinegar has been produced in Modena and Reggio Emilia since the Middle Ages, being mentioned in a document dated 1046! Round out this history lesson with some herbage, and you’ve got the makings of a simply elegant feast.
Yield: About 4 servings (depending on loin poundage)
1 Pork Tenderloin (weight will vary)
4 Cups Red Seedless Grapes
3 Cups Balsamic Vinegar (mid-grade Modena or other comparable vinegar preferred)
4 Large Bunches of Thyme
1 TBSP Garlic Powder
Non-Stick Cooking Spray
(Optional) 2 Acorn Squashes (squashii?)
(Optional) 1 16oz Bag Frozen Green Beans
Cast Iron Skillet
Meat Thermometer (consider this one by Polder)
Gallon-Sized Zip-Lock Bag
4 Microwave-Safe Serving Plates (Plus a spare plate for meat resting)
Meat Carving Knife
(Optional) 13×9 cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
(Optional) Cutting Board, Chef’s Knife, and Large Spoon
- (If time allows) Remove the thyme leaves from the stems and add to the zip-lock bag along with the garlic and the 3 cups of balsamic vinegar. Marinate the tenderloin in the zip-lock bag mixture for 1 to 2 hours in your refrigerator. If you are short on time, this step can be omitted.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- (Optional side step) Half the acorn squashii with your knife, scoop out the seeds and their membranes, and place them face-down on the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Stick these bad boys in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes or until fork tender.
- Spray the cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray and bring to medium-high heat. (do the water dance test) Add the pork tenderloin, and use the tongs to turn the meat and brown evenly. If you haven’t browned meat like this before, you want to brown each ‘side’ of the tenderloin for 1 to 2 minutes so that it develops a mid-brown hue to lock in juices and keep the meat from getting dry when we stick it in the oven. The number of ‘sides’ you want to brown, depends on the size of your loin. Larger cuts of meat will likely need to browned on 4 sides, and smaller cuts can browned on 3. Don’t worry too much about this process being pretty. You’re simply on the mission of creating a flavor-saving barrier.
- Kill the heat on the stovetop and add the balsamic, garlic powder, and thyme to the cast iron skillet. Set your meat thermometer to 137 degrees and insert it so that the tip reads the approximate center of your loin. You’re aiming for the coldest spot you can find here.
- Carefully cover the cast iron skillet with the aluminum foil and cook until the meat thermometer reads 137. You may want to move the meat thermometer in or out a little bit to make sure that you are indeed reading the coldest spot of the meat. Do not remove the meat thermometer entirely (spoiler alert!) until the meat has had a chance to rest in step 7.
- Remove the tenderloin from the skillet and place on a spare plate. Allow the meat to rest for 8 to 10 minutes. This rest time is crucial to preventing the meat from becoming dry. Resist the urge to cut too soon!
- (Optional side step) Divide the green beans among four microwave-safe serving plates and nuke for a couple minutes each.
- Ok the time has come, carve up that tenderloin! The reduced balsamic and grapes make a great sauce for the green beans, or any other side you choose to whip up.