Trying and failing to re-create something you saw on Pinterest is such a ubiquitous experience that it has inspired an entire subculture: Pinterest Fails. Like every other 20-something-year-old woman in America, I’ve tried my fair share of Pinterest crafts and recipes, with varying success. I once “upcycled” beer bottles into, uh, “glitter vases,” which sound cute when you’re 18 but in reality look like the tacky table centerpieces at a New Year’s Eve party sponsored by Bud Light.
But for every 10 Pinterest Fails there is a single opposite Pinterest Success (we’ll call that Newton’s Fourth Law). I eventually stumbled on my own. My most memorable Triumph in Pinning was a rather pedestrian recipe — and my first foray into cooking pork tenderloin.
There were five ingredients: the meat, salt, garlic powder, fig butter and balsamic vinegar. As a tenderloin novice, I was equal parts drawn to and skeptical of the recipe’s overt simplicity: Season the meat, brush it with the figgy vinegar mixture, pop it in the oven, eat. But it was … good.
So good, in fact, that I made it again soon after. And again for my boyfriend. And again for myself. I told my mom about it. I told friends about it. I grabbed a stranger on the street by his collar and insisted he try it himself. (I did not actually do that last one.)
You know what happens next: I got sick of it. I didn’t make pork tenderloin again for at least a year, which is such a shame because I inadvertently deprived myself of one of the easiest, most convenient and most dependable weeknight dinner options out there.
When the urge to cook pork tenderloin finally struck once again, I was determined to expand my horizons beyond my glaze-and-roast go-to.
I did, and it’s safe to say I haven’t tired of those discoveries yet.
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This week's game plan
Mojo Pork Tenderloin With Platanos Maduros
I had to cram my love of Lechon Asado and fried sweet plantains somewhere into this newsletter. This scaled-down weeknight alternative is inspired by the Cuban mainstay.
Bulgogi-Style Pork Bowl With Charred Bok Choy
A quick marinade and an even quicker cook time are all that stand between you and this Korean-inspired rice bowl.
Cold Rice Noodle Salad
Don't dry out leftover Mojo Pork in the microwave. Serve it cold over noodles, with crunchy veg and a tangy dressing instead.
Your shopping list
Ready for some PTLC? Click this link for an easy-to-save shopping list that includes ingredients for all three recipes.
Marinate one tenderloin in mojo, thinly slice the other
Your tenderloins likely have a thin, silvery connective tissue running down a portion of them. That’s the Silverskin, which sounds a lot like a Marvel character but is definitely just gratuitous membrane. It won’t hurt you, but it doesn’t break down or cook off, either, so it’s best to trim it with a paring knife before we get started.
What you don’t want to remove is any visible fat from the larger of the two tenderloins. Mojo is traditionally used to marinate fattier cuts such as pork shoulder (if not the whole damn pig); in the interest of time, prices and portions, we’re going with what is ultimately a significantly leaner cut: the tenderloin, or “pork fillet.” Fat adds flavor, so you want to grab one that looks a little fattier than the others, then leave that fat intact.
Now let’s get to it. Before you start preparing the mojo, throw the smaller of the two tenderloins into the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour.
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus 24 hours to marinate.
Makes about 1¼ cups mojo. You’ll need:
2 tablespoons finely grated zest and ¾ cup fresh orange juice (from 2 to 3 navel oranges)
2 teaspoons finely grated zest and ¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
Cloves from 1 head garlic, minced
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
One 1¼-pound pork tenderloin
Let’s get to it. I won’t lie to you: The grating and juicing and peeling and mincing takes some time. You may very well be tempted to buy bottled orange juice or jarred minced garlic — or even worse, bottled mojo — from the store. RESIST! You and your tenderloin deserve better. Put your head down and power through it.
Whisk together the grated zests, juices, garlic and dried oregano in a bowl. Stream in the oil as you continue whisking. Once you’ve added it all, taste the mojo and season it with salt. Pour two-thirds of the mojo into a heavy-duty zip-top bag, refrigerating the other third in a small dish covered with foil or plastic wrap. Add the pork tenderloin to the zip-top bag of mojo and seal, pressing out as much air as possible. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
As for that other tenderloin ....
Once you’ve given it ample time to firm up in the freezer, place it on a cutting board. Use a paper towel to hold down the meat with one hand and start cutting thin slices with a chef’s knife. Have you ever eaten a Philly cheesesteak? Yeah, that’s your guide here. You want shreds of pork.
Transfer the sliced meat to another zip-top bag or plastic container and refrigerate till it’s Bulgogi Bowl time.
Mojo Pork Tenderloin With Platanos Maduros
First things first: Once the tenderloin is cooked, cut off and reserve a small chunk if you intend to make the Cold Rice Noodle Salad. When you’re cooking for two, this shouldn’t be tough; you’ll really only need about a 2-inch piece (or less) to thinly slice over noodles.
Let’s briefly talk cooking method. After preparing this recipe several different ways, I can definitively say that this sear-then-roast method is not only the best option for this particular dish, but also is my preferred way to cook pork tenderloin, period. Searing helps build a welcome crust on the meat, encourages more even cooking and caramelizes the little fat we have to work with, which boosts the overall flavor.
Last, you want very ripe plantains to make platanos maduros. Nearly black skins are ideal. To accelerate the ripening process, you can place the plantains in a brown paper bag on your kitchen counter. Buy them at least a week before making this recipe, which is why they were included on the Week 9 shopping list.
If your plantains ripen before you need them, you can go ahead and peel, slice and freeze them. You can fry them from frozen. Don’t fret if your plantains aren’t as ripe as you’d like; they’re fine for cooking, they just won’t be as soft and sweet.
Prep time: 5 to 10 minutes. Cook time: 30 minutes.
3 to 4 servings. You’ll need:
1 Mojo-marinated pork tenderloin
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 very ripe, nearly black plantains
Reserved mojo sauce from your Sunday Task
¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, for serving
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Pull the tenderloin from the mojo marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. You won’t need the marinade in the bag, so discard it. Heat a cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium heat until it’s nearly smoking hot. Use a teaspoon of the oil to lather up the tenderloin and then take it to the pan. You want to sear the meat for a minute or two on all sides to form that deeply brown crust we talked about. This should take 6 to 8 minutes.
Let’s chuck the skillet into the oven and roast the tenderloin for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the thickest part of the tenderloin registers 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (don’t be afraid of a pinkish center; we’re aiming for a tint of pink here).
While the tenderloin roasts, slice off the ends of the plantains, then make a slit with a paring knife down the skins. Into the garbage those skins go. Cut the the fruit on the diagonal into ½-inch slices.
When the tenderloin is finished, transfer the meat to a cutting board. Give it a rest for 8 minutes.
Wipe the skillet clean and heat the remaining ¼ cup of oil over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the plantain slices until they’re deeply golden brown and caramelized, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the plantain slices to a paper towel-lined plate and season ’em immediately with a little salt.
Slice up the tenderloin on the diagonal into ½-inch slices (but don’t forget to reserve some for the cold noodle dish later this week). Season lightly with salt and serve alongside your reserved mojo (that refrigerated one-third) and the platanos maduros. Cilantro is always invited to the party, so scatter it mercilessly. For my friends in the cilantro-is-soap camp, feel free to reach for any other tender herb of your choosing.
Bulgogi-Style Pork Bowls With Charred Bok Choy
While it sure doesn’t look like your typical Thursday night tenderloin, you’ll welcome this change of pace and preparation with open arms once you try it. Shredding the meat transforms an already quick-cooking cut into an even faster weeknight option.
Prep time: 35 minutes. Cook time: 10 to 15 minutes.
2 (kinda big) servings. You’ll need:
½ Asian pear, grated, see TIP
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, grated
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili pepper paste, such as gochujang or sambal oelek
12 ounces pork tenderloin, thinly sliced (from your Sunday Task)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 head baby bok choy, cut in half lengthwise and cleaned, see TIP
¼ cup water
2 cups cooked grains of your choice
½ cup coarsely chopped kimchi
1 tablespoon Sriracha
¼ cup mayonnaise
Whisk together the grated pear, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, ginger, brown sugar and chili pepper paste in a bowl. Add the tenderloin slices and marinate them for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 hour.
Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, arrange the tenderloin slices in the pan into a single layer. We want each piece to get a nice sear on it, so avoid overlap if you can. Cook them undisturbed — that’s right, no peeking — for 1 minute. This will feel like the longest minute of your life. I promise it’s not.
The undersides of the tenderloin slices should be browned well, but not burned. Season lightly with salt, turn them over, toss and cook for another minute. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining pork and another tablespoon of the oil.
Once you’ve cooked all the bulgogi, wipe the skillet clean and heat that last teaspoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Cook the bok choy, cut sides down, for 1 to 2 minutes or until they develop a grill-worthy char. Flip the halves over and add the water to the skillet. Partially cover and steam the bok choy until the greens have wilted, the stalks have softened ever-so-slightly and the water has mostly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
Scoop a couple heaps of grains into two bowls and top with pork, half the bok choy and some kimchi. Mix together the Sriracha and mayo and serve it on the side.
Bulgogi pork adapted from a recipe on Healthyish.com.
Leftovers: Cold Rice Noodles With Pork
You’ve got some of that Mojo Pork Tenderloin in the fridge which pairs wonderfully with cold vermicelli rice noodles and crunchy veggies. I trust you to read the packaging and get those noodles soaked and cooked. Once they’re finished, drain them, transfer them to a bowl and pop that in the fridge while you prep the various accoutrements. The leftover pork’s already cooked and cut, but let’s stretch it into two servings by cutting it into thin slices.
Slice up a half a seedless cucumber and a couple of radishes into thin rounds. We’ve got noodles, we’ve got pork, we’ve got bright veg medallions. What we don’t have is a dressing. Let’s whip up some nuoc cham, a traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce often served with spring rolls. The already-citrusy pork easily bridges cuisines, and the nuoc cham doubles down with tangy lime juice. Whisk 2 tablespoons of lime juice with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons of warm water, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, a clove of grated garlic and a big pinch of thinly sliced bird’s-eye or Fresno chiles. Pull the noodles from the fridge and top with pork, cucumber, radishes and several spoonfuls of nuoc cham. Refrigerate the rest of the dressing for up to 4 days in an airtight container.
Nuoc cham sauce adapted from a recipe on SeriousEats.com.
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