Pork tenderloin is incredible when prepared well. And by that, I mean it should not be the least bit overcooked, but still pink on the interior. Because it is a lean cut of meat, spice rubs and marinades are a great way to add some flavor.
I’m a big fan of fennel, and when it’s paired with thyme and garlic it makes for a really good pork spice rub. The other star of this recipe is the cider cream sauce. An apple is roasted along side the pork, and the result is a soft, caramelized apple that melts in your mouth. The pan is deglazed with apple cider. If you can’t find cider, you can use 100% unsweetened apple juice, or even white wine would be great.
Roasted carrots and potatoes make a great side dish and taste great with the cider sauce. It’s one of my family’s favorite cold weather dinners.
Let’s talk about preparing the pork tenderloin.Trimming a pork tenderloin is important. This one is hand-trimmed by my favorite butcher. You can do it at home by using a thin, very sharp knife and removing any of the silver skin, being careful not to remove too much meat. You can remove any other bits you want, but keep a bit of the fat, if possible.
The tenderloin is usually uneven and benefits from being tied. This helps it cook evenly, and is an important step. If you don’t have bakers twine, you can also secure the ends with toothpicks.
In order for the spice rub to stay on the tenderloin, be sure to drizzle it with the tiniest bit of olive oil. Letting it sit for a few minutes after applying the spice rubs, lets the flavors sort of absorb into the meat. They will also stay on the meat better when you sear it.
The way I always make pork tenderloin is to sear it on the stove first, then finish it off in a hot oven. Searing it helps it stay juicy so it doesn’t dry out in the oven. Like I said, it’s fairly lean, so there isn’t much fat to keep it moist.
Roasting it with apples and onions add more flavor, and makes the final sauce taste amazing. You can’t beat that caramelized, roasted flavor that only a hot oven can give it.
Deglazing is also an important step. I should also mention you want to be extremely careful when handling the pan out of the oven. I have received very bad burns from forgetting that the pan was in the oven and grabbing the handle without an oven mitt. Ouch! Just remember that it’s blazing hot and you’ll be fine.
Add a bit of liquid and scrape up the browned bits. The flavor is deep and rich. You want to make sure to get every last bit! For this I’ve used cider, and as I mentioned above, you can use other liquids as well – wine, stock, cream, water, or whatever you like. The cider adds a lot of sweetness and pairs well with the fennel and thyme in the spice rub. Prepare the sauce while the pork rests to reabsorb the juice. To serve, thinly slice it, place over the roasted veggies, and serve the sauce on top or on the side.
- For spice rub:
- 1 tsp. whole fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. very coarse sea salt
- 4 thyme sprigs, leaves only
- 1 large garlic clove
- For pork and sauce:
- One 1 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed
- a little extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large honey crisp apple
- 1 onion, diced
- ½ cup fresh apple cider
- a few tablespoons of cream
- For vegetables:
- 1-2 large red or purple-skinned potatoes, cut into matchsticks or julienned
- 6 carrots (I used organic rainbow), cut into matchsticks, or julienned
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- For spice rub: In a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the fennel seeds, black pepper, sea salt, thyme leaves, and garlic clove. Set aside.
- For pork: Drizzle a little olive oil on the pork tenderloin and rub about ¾ of the spice rub all over the meat. Let stand for a few minutes. Tie the pork tenderloin, if desired, for even cooking.
- Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add a little oil and sear the pork tenderloin on all sides, lowering the heat a bit, if it starts to burn. Add the onion, diced apple, thyme sprig, and a bit of water to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from oven and place on stove-top. Transfer the pork to a plate and cover with foil. Allow it to rest while preparing the sauce and vegetables.
- For vegetables: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the vegetables with a little olive oil and the remaining ¼ of the spice rub. Spread evenly on the baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender.
- For sauce: While vegetables are roasting and pork is resting, deglaze the skillet with the apple cider, making sure to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring it to a simmer and add the cream. Allow it to reduce a little bit, but not too much, and transfer to a small bowl and cover it to keep the sauce warm.
- To serve: When vegetables are finished roasting, transfer them to a serving platter. Cut the pork tenderloin into thin rounds and lay across the vegetables. Serve with the cider cream sauce on the side.
If you happen to live in the Salt Lake City area, I highly recommend purchasing your pork from Caputo’s. They use locally, humanely raised pork from Christiansen Family Farms. Their butcher, Frody Volgger, cuts the meat himself in-store. My family doesn’t eat any other kind of pork – nothing compares. My recipe for Pork Tenderloin with Thyme-Fennel Spice Rub was originally featured on the Caputo’s Deli blog on September 24, 2012. However, this is not a sponsored post. All opinions and recommendations are my own, and based on my own experiences and preferences.