Looking for ideas for a special dinner? Consider pork tenderloin! It's terrific for entertaining. The challenge is that because tenderloin is such a lean, tender cut of meat, it can easily be over-cooked and dry.
You can address this in a couple of ways. The most important thing is to not overcook the pork. Pork tenderloin can quickly go from perfect to overdone, so use a meat thermometer, pay attention and pull the meat from the heat when it gets to the right internal temperature.
Another thing you can do to help keep the moisture in the meat is to marinate the tenderloin in a lightly briny solution. Ideally, a sweet and salty marinade will not only infuse the meat with flavor, but will also act as a gentle brine to help the tenderloin retain moisture as it cooks.
The following recipe is a twist on a classic Mediterranean chicken recipe with green olives and dried fruit. In this recipe I'm using pork tenderloin instead of chicken, and marinating the pork with buttery green olives, sweet dried figs, salty capers, garlic, and oregano.
Mild canned green olives work well for this dish. (Look for California olives, they're the best quality.) When you brine the olives with the pork the olives absorb the flavors of the spicy briny marinade.
Biting into one of the olives in the finished dish is like biting into a juicy flavor bomb. Paired with the sweet figs and salty capers, the olives make a lovely complement to the pork.
Pork Tenderloin with Figs and Olives
If the dried figs are very dry, plump them first by soaking them in water for several hours.
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 teaspoon caper juice
- 3/4 cup pitted green olives, halved
- 6 dried figs, quartered
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/4 pound pork tenderloin
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
Make the marinade:
Pour the red wine vinegar into a medium bowl and stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved.
Add the minced garlic, oregano, pepper, capers, caper juice, figs, green olives, and bay leaves, and stir to combine.
Stir in the olive oil.
Prep and marinate the tenderloin:
Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut away and discard any tough silver skin on the outside of the tenderloin. Cut the tenderloin in half crosswise.
Place the two tenderloin halves into a freezer bag or a bowl. Pour the marinade over the tenderloin halves and coat well.
Chill for 2 to 24 hours (the longer the better).
Sear the tenderloin:
Remove the tenderloin halves from the marinade, wiping off any excess, reserving the marinade.
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan on high heat. Pat dry the tenderloin halves with a paper towel and place in hot pan. Sear on all sides until nicely browned. Remove from pan and place in a baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350°F
Deglaze pan and heat marinade:
Pour half a cup of white wine into the hot skillet and scrape up any browned bits with a spatula.
Add the marinade to the pan with the wine and let come to a full boil.
Pour the marinade over the tenderloin in the baking dish and arrange on all sides of the tenderloin.
Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp brown sugar.
Cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the internal temperature of the tenderloin is 135° to 140°F. (The internal temp will continue to rise while the pork rests in the next step.)
Transfer the tenderloin halves from the dish to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Slice and serve:
Slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds (a bread knife works well for this). Serve with figs, olives, and juices from the baking dish. Terrific with couscous.
Freda Ehmann, Oroville's mother of the olive industry - wonderful story of grit and entrepreneurial determination