Thursday, June 24, 2010

Creole Pork Tenderloin and Grits

I was probably in my late teens before I realized that Creole was more than a lyric in the Dire Straits song Sultans of Swing.

They don't give a damn,
'bout any trumpet playing band
It ain't what they call rock and roll
And the Sultans played Creole
(remember how deep Knopfler's voice was when he repeated Creole?)

Then when I did learn about Creole food, for years I thought it was synonymous with Cajun. If you just heard a "thud" that was Katherine fainting over at Smoky Mountain Cafe.

I did finally learn the error of my ways and repented years ago. But those memories drifted across my mind tonight when I grilled a Creole pork tenderloin with grits.

Creole Pork Tenderloin and Grits
source: This one is kind of tricky. I used a very slight variation of John Besh's Basic Creole Spices. I loosely adapted the Creole sauce from a shrimp recipe in Joy Of Cooking (97 version). Then Nibble Me This has to get some credit for coming up with the dish and executing it :)

Creole Sauce
1/2 ea onion, peeled and diced
1/2 ea green pepper, seeded and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 tsp thyme, dried
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ea roasted red pepper diced
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup canned diced tomato, crushed while cooking
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup red wine

Basic Creole Spices
(will make 1/2 cup but you will only use 2-3 Tbsp, store rest for later use)
1 3/4 Tbsp celery salt
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp coarse sea salt
1 Tbsp black pepper, finely ground
3/4 Tbsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp minced garlic (the dehydrated flakes)
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp allspice, ground

1 ea pork tenderloin

1 cup stone ground grits, slow cooked to directions

Green onion and cheese to garnish

Make the sauce first, you can even make it ahead of time and reheat. This is a mouth pleasing Creole base that could be used for shrimp, rice & okra, or anything.

In a hot cast iron pan, heat about 2 tablespoons of "menage-a-fat" (equal parts butter, oil, and bacon fat....sorry, I love that term and it's all mine!). Saute the onion, green pepper, celery, thyme and salt over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes until softened.

Add in the garlic and roasted red pepper and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add in the tomato paste and tomatoes, stirring to mix in well, cooking for another 5 minutes. Make sure to crush the tomatoes up as you stir.

Add the wine and beef broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. If they get done before the grits and pork are done, just drop the temp as low as you can and keep covered. That probably even makes it better.

While that is cooking, cook your slow cooking grits according to directions. Seriously, you HAVE TO USE COARSE GROUND GRITS or don't bother. These are not your wimpy, blandy, soupy grits that most people associate with the idea of grits. These will have a nice thick texture and will serve as the base to this kick ass dish.

At the same time, you want to get your grill cooking at 350-375f. Rub your pork tenderloin with the creole seasoning to give it a good coating. I guess I used about 2-3 tablespoons. Grill it over direct heat turning every 5-6 minutes, until the internal temp hits 140f. That takes about 21 to 24 minutes for me but rely on your instant read thermometer.

Your grits and pork should both take about 30 minutes to cook, start to finish and then they can both rest for about 10 minutes. This will let the pork finish cooking and thicken up the grits.

Plate a large spoonful of the grits to the side of a deep plate. Ladle some of the Creole sauce on the rest of the plate. Top with thin slices of the pork and garnish with cheese and green onion.

The sliced pork by itself was so good that it could have disappeared at the cutting board. Thick stone ground grits always make me happy. I was worried the sauce might not be a suitable match since it was adapted from a shrimp recipe but holy crapoly, I couldn't have put together a better combination.

The best part? We have creole sauce leftover and I'm grilling shrimp tomorrow night!