Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Four-ingredient pork tenderloin is lean, luscious

If you're looking for an easy dinner that's low in fat and loaded with flavor, this recipe is for you. All you'll need is a pork tenderloin, a big onion, a little bit of oil and a jar of barbecue sauce.

Start by browning the pork on all sides, which develops flavor. You'll want what chefs call a "hard sear," with nice dark color. Add thinly sliced onion and sauté for a minute, then stir some barbecue sauce into the onions and pour the rest over the pork. To finish the dish, transfer the skillet to a hot oven. As the onions cook, they'll become tender and so sweet they are almost jammy.

I used a sauce made and sold in St. Louis, Millie's Sweet & Spicy. It's a bit smoky, too, making it a great way to add a lot of complexity to pork tenderloin, which can be bland. You can make this dish your own by using your favorite barbecue sauce.

Two tools make this recipe almost foolproof. The first is a electronic temperature probe, which beeps when the pork is ready. I use it almost every time I grill or roast meat. If you don't have a temperature probe, which connects to a base unit, you can use a meat thermometer or an instant-read thermometer instead. Be sure to keep a close eye on the internal temperature, though. Tenderloins vary in weight and diameter, so the cooking time is hard to predict. Many recipes say to cook pork to 145 degrees, but that's too rare for our liking. I pull it from the oven when the temperature reaches 155 degrees, and the pork turns out moist with a pink center.

The other essential tool is a heavy ovenproof skillet, preferable cast-iron. I used my 10-inch skillet, cutting the pork in half so the pieces fit fairly snugly, which kept the sauce from spreading out and burning.

Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon canola oil or olive oil
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)
1 jumbo onion or 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced thinly
2/3 cup barbecue sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or other ovenproof skillet) on the stove over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, cut tenderloin in half crosswise if necessary to fit into the skillet. When oil begins to shimmer, add pork. Brown well on all sides, turning as necessary.

Add onions to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until they start to soften, then stir in about 1/2 cup barbecue sauce. Spread onions evenly in pan, placing them around and under the pork. Spoon remaining barbecue sauce over the pork, spreading the sauce evenly.

Cook until the pork reaches 145 degrees for rare, 155 degrees for medium or 160 degrees for well done. Remove from oven; tent loosely with foil and let sit for 10 minutes.

Cut pork into medallions, top with onions and serve.

Note: Each serving contains about 260 calories and 10 grams of fat.

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