By contributing writer Mary Cressler
Pork tenderloin is one of my go-to meals at home. It’s delicious, affordable, and can be cooked however I feel like (grilled, smoked, pan seared, or roasted). Our favorite method is to smoke pork tenderloin on our outdoor smoker, but there are days when even we don’t feel like heading outside to cook. That’s when we turn to the oven and roasting. And roasting does something the backyard grill simply cannot do – make my house smell warm and heavenly!
So when we’re having friends over for a late winter dinner, we turn to this favored dish to create an inviting smell as our guests are arriving. Plus, one of the great things about pork tenderloin is that you can easily adjust the portions to the number of your guests. A typical pork tenderloin runs about 1 pound, which is great for 3 – 4 people. The ones we recently found (pictured) were smaller and ran about ½ to ¾ pound each, which is great for a dinner for two. So you can easily add more pork tenderloins based on the amount of people you are expecting for dinner, whether it be a quiet dinner for two or party of eight! Pork tenderloin is affordable, lean, full of savory flavor, and cooks fast! What’s not to love?
We like to add extra flavor by coating the tenderloin with a variety of herbs. Whatever you have on hand should do the trick, but I like a combination of fresh sage, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper. Rosemary is also a great one to add. Then, to add some elegance and depth, I make a simple blackberry wine sauce to drizzle over the top. You can use whatever wine you plan to drink with the meal to keep things even easier (more on that below).
Making a wine sauce is quite simple. I just take some berries, in this case blackberries, and cook them with some thinly sliced shallots, butter (for richness), and wine, and reduce it until it’s nice and thick and flavorful. Wine sauces can be as thin or thick as you wish to make them, but for this I like to reduce it until it’s fairly thick and chunky to add richness and deep berry flavors to the pork. Just a little drizzle goes a long way to add elegant flavor to this dish.
The juiciness from the meat and the richness of the sauce is a great pair for polenta, roasted potatoes, or chunky mashed potatoes (like in the picture). The starches will soak up any of the sauce, so you get some with each bite. Yum!
- 1 large pork tenderloin (about 1 pound) or 2 small (1/2 to ¾ pound each)
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2+ tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup shallots, sliced thin
- ½ cup fresh blackberries
- 1 cup red wine
- ⅔ cup beef stock
- Salt, to taste (about ¼ teaspoon)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Remove silver skin and extra fat from pork tenderloin with a sharp knife, then rinse in cold water and pat dry.
- Combine sage, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Coat the tenderloin with the olive oil and then rub the herb mix onto the tenderloin.
- Place onto a baking sheet and cook for up to 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 145 degrees. Remove and let sit for 10 minutes to let juices redistribute.
- Warm up a medium cast iron skillet or pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and the shallots (reserving the other 2 tablespoons of butter for later). Stir occasionally for up to eight minutes to let caramelize. (Lower heat if butter starts to brown.)
- Add blackberries for 2 minutes and then add wine. Let wine simmer for about 5 minutes and then add beef broth. Bring back to a simmer and let reduce in half, or about 6 more minutes. Add a pinch of salt to taste and continue to stir.
- When desired consistency, turn off heat and add another 2 tablespoons of butter and stir.
- Plate the tenderloin and pour sauce over.
Pork tenderloin is a great match for a wide variety of wines. It’s lean and has great savory characteristics. This recipe calls for a combination of the herb crust along with the richness of the blackberry wine sauce. I like to opt for wines that offer a combination of both herbal flavors and fresh fruity characteristics. New World Pinot Noir, like those from Oregon or California can work well with their fruity and savory notes. For something a little bigger, a fruity Zinfandel, like those from Seghesio Family Vineyards, is fantastic with blackberry flavors and some complimentary spice and pepper characteristics.
Several Rhône-style wines work well too, especially those from northern Rhône, with their herbal notes and sometimes bacon fat aromas that play well with the tenderloin. If you wanted to play up the rich fruit from the sauce, then a good Merlot from Washington is an excellent bet. I had this tenderloin recently with a Northstar Merlot from Columbia Valley that held up quite well with the rich sauce and savory meat.
From Pinot Noir, to Merlot, to Syrah, and even Zinfandel, this is a versatile dish that has the potential to pair with whatever style you are in the mood for. Or if you do prepare this for a dinner party, why not try a few different styles and see which one you like the best?
What’s your favorite way to prepare pork tenderloin? And better yet, what’s your favorite wine for it?
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners. She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.