The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 9 January 2012

Brined Pork Tenderloin Roast with Lightly Caramelised Apples and Onions

I have been experimenting with brining meat over the past few months, and found that poultry and pork benefit the most from brining. This form of marination is one of the most effective way of flavouring and adding moisture to meat, yet not many cooks use this method. Sure, it takes a little bit of advance planning (as little as an hour or two), but brining meat is worth the effort for the results you get. Without going into too much scientific details (for which this book is great for), basically brining hydrates the meat before cooking via osmosis, and if done right, it will produce delicious moist meat. I use half about 1/8 cup salt for 1 litre of water (which is half the amount recommended by most), and some people like to add sugar, herbs and other ingredients in the brine, but I keep thing simple by just using salt. Generally I brine meat for roasting, like a whole chicken (for 6-10hours), a leg of lamb (for 3-4 hours), chicken pieces (for 2 hours) and pork tenderloin (for 2 hours), and I never brine the meat for more than the appropriate brining period because oversalty meat is not tasty at all. It is always better to under-brine than over-brine, and re-adjust next time if needed.

In my most recent brining attempt in the kitchen, I brined pork tenderloin. This cut is low-fat, so it really benefits from some brining to incorporate moisture into the meat to counteract the drying effects of roasting. This wasn't my first time making this recipe, but I'd foolishly neglected to take notes the first time, so I had to do my research all over again when I wanted to do roast pork with apples again. This time I took notes of the two recipes I used to adapt my own recipe (neither recipe used brined meat, but I believe brining the pork is an improvement), AND I took photos so that I can put it on my online journal for future reference. I love having my recipe collection online as it means easy access from anywhere in the world - a valuable resource for someone who moves around so much. This is only a simple recipe with few ingredients, but we all enjoyed dinner that night.

Just a couple of notes here about the method. Ideally I would use an ovenproof skillet to maximise the flavours in the sauce and minimise the washing up, but my oven is too small for my skillet. There were still plenty of yummy bits on the skillet for making the sauce, though probably not as much as if it was also used for the roasting. I lined the oven tray with foil to roast the pork and apple-onion mixture, and then used the foil to make a foil tent for the roasted pork while it's resting. The tray was still clean after I removed the food and foil, so I got away with not having to scrub an extra dish!

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Lightly Caramelised Apples and Onions


1 pork tenderloin (about 350-400g), brined for two hours in a simple solution of 1/8 cup of table salt dissolved in 1L of water
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, sliced into half-rings
1 apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (I used Jazz apple but any good cooking apple variety will do)
1/2 cup (125mL) meat stock (preferably beef, but I only had chicken stock on hand)
1/4 cup apple juice (I used apple cider the first time)
Fresh dill, chopped to yield about 1 tablespoon, or adjust to taste (other herbs like parsley or thyme can also be used)


1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil and fry the sliced onions on medium heat until tender and cooked, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Add the apple slices and sauté for about 5 minutes. Transfer to an oven tray.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear until all sides are brown, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Place pork on top of the apple-onion mixture in the oven tray.
3. Place the oven tray in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes.

4. Transfer pork to a plate and tent with foil and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile return the apple-onion mixture to the skillet, add the stock and juice and stir mixture over high heat for a few minutes until slightly reduced. Add the chopped herbs.

6. Slice the pork on a diagonal, and serve with the apple-onion mixture along with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables for a balanced meal.

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