One of the very first things my late mother taught me how to cook was pork tenderloin, and since then, it has been my go-to dish for family dinners, first dates or even just cooking to reheat for myself. A relatively inexpensive yet juicy and tender cut of meat, pork tenderloin is deceptively lean but can pack a lot of flavor if cooked right, and is elevated even further with the addition of a pan sauce. So, without further ado, here is my recipe for pork tenderloin!
For this quick and easy meal, you will need the following ingredients.
- Pork tenderloin. This can be found in grocery stores, typically with two tenderloins in a package. I personally only cooked one tenderloin, but had a LOT of sauce leftover, so if you are planning on cooking two tenderloins, the only adjustment you will have to make is to the seasonings
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. This will go both on the tenderloin itself and in the pan sauce, so make sure you have it on hand.
- 1/2 tablespoon of smoked paprika. Paprika is really what brings this dish to life. Long live paprika!
- 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder. Garlic powder is awesome. What else is there to say?
- 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder. See previous statement.
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. The high smoke point and neutral flavor of this oil make it ideal for searing your tenderloin.
- 1/2 cup of shallots, roughly minced. I say “roughly” because I am terrible at mincing shallots.
- 1/2 cup of bourbon. In my case, since I was in a dorm kitchen and could not get ahold of bourbon, I opted instead for apple cider vinegar, but if bourbon is an option, absolutely go for it.
- 1 cup of chicken stock, unsalted. Optionally, if you are using store-bought stock, you can add a packet of unflavored gelatin 10 minutes prior to cooking to improve the texture of the sauce.
- 1/4 cup of heavy cream. This will help thicken the sauce and further make it awesome.
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Food tastes better with butter in it, unfortunately. My poor, poor arteries.
To start things off, you will want to take your tenderloin out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you start cooking to let it come up to room temperature. Additionally, you will want to preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now, it is time for seasoning! Season your pork on all sides to your liking. The measurements I gave are far from hard rules. As a matter of fact, I just eyeballed it, opting for what I thought looked best. Even the choice of seasonings is flexible. I usually season with other spices, such as celery seed, but I was cooking for my roommate, who is allergic to celery. But honestly, this dish turned out so good, that I do not think she would have minded a little anaphylactic shock.
Now, add your vegetable oil to a frying pan and heat it on your stove on medium-high heat. Once the pan is nice and hot, add your tenderloin. We are not cooking it all the way through on the stove, just getting a nice sear on all sides before putting the whole pan in the oven until the pork registers at 145 degrees Fahrenheit at its thickest point.
Once the pork is up to temperature, take it out of the oven. If you are using an oven thermometer, it is crucial that you do not try to pull the hot metal probe out of the pork with your bare hand. You will swear like an Eagles fan in the nosebleeds and your roommate will laugh and photograph you running your burnt hand under cold water. Remove the tenderloin from the pan and set aside, covered with aluminum foil, to rest.
Now, put oven mitts on both of your hands, idiot and turn your stove back on to medium-high heat. Add your shallots to the pan, using the leftover fat to cook them until they are soft.
Once the shallots are soft, deglaze your pan with your bourbon, which I would recommend doing off-heat to avoid it catching on fire, and add your chicken stock to the pan as well. Scrape up the fond that has formed at the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let all of this simmer on medium-high heat until it has reduced and thickened to the point that when you scrape across the pan with a wooden spoon, a clean streak is left at the bottom of the pan.
Now, add your heavy cream and butter and whisk until fully combined. Place a few dollops on your plate of choice, put your portion of tenderloin on top and enjoy!
I’ve cooked many tenderloins in my day, but this is up there with the best. The pan sauce is almost like an aromatic gravy that adds to the juiciness and flavor of the well-seasoned pork. Tenderloin pairs nicely with any number of sides- rice, mac & cheese, grilled asparagus- but even on its own, this rich, delicious dish is perfectly filling and will leave you wanting more, even if your stomach does not have any more room.