Sliding Into Home

Pretty much everything is adorable when it is smaller.  Think about it.


Babies, ponies, Simone Biles, and Laurie Hernandez: you just want to stick ‘em in your pocket and take them home.  Show The Kid a puppy, and you’ll see my grown, responsible adult child babble like a drunken toddler and swoon like a professional Southern Belle.

Food is the same way.  Those little tiny ears of corn, could they be more precious?  On pancake night, my mom used to always make me a small stack of the baby version—and they always tasted better.

Sliders; the miniature version of burgers are everywhere, from burger joints to fine dining.  The burgers were popularized by the White Castle restaurant chain.  The name came from the Navy, where the burgers were small, greasy, and slid down easy.

Last week I was wandering the interwebs and saw a great variation on hamburger sliders.  Pork, sliced from a cooked tenderloin.  What a great idea; with an approximately 2 ½-inch diameter they are the absolute perfect size for sliders.

I didn’t even stick around long enough to look at the recipe or see how they dressed the sliders.  I had opened up my computer notepad, and was coming up with sandwich variations.  I ended up with eleven different sandwiches.

But first, let’s cook our tenderloin.

Oven-roasted pork tenderloin


1 pork tenderloin, approx. 1 pound

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425.  Get a cast iron skillet almost smoking hot.  While it’s heating, brush the oil all over the tenderloin.  Liberally season the pork.

Insert a probe thermometer set to 145 for medium-rare up to 160 for medium.  Place meat in skillet and sear, turning with tongs to brown the entire surface.

When the outside is caramelized, place the skillet with the pork into the oven, and cook until desired temp is reached.  Remove, and let rest, lightly covered for 5-10 minutes.

With a very sharp knife slice into about 10-12 thin-ish slices (you’ll use two slices for each sandwich) Makes 5-6 sliders.

Variations on a Porky Theme:

*Unless another type of bread is noted use any kind of slider bun.

Autumn in Paris-Cut pieces of French bread cut to about 3 inches.  Cut in half horizontally and give the bottom schmear of Dijonaise (50/50 ratio of mayo/Dijon), layer pork, thinly sliced apple slices, and Brie.

The Buckeroo-Place sharp cheddar on top of 2 slices tenderloin.  Melt under broiler.  Spread thin layer of mayo on the bottom and a mild barbecue sauce on cut side of the top of a Hawaiian roll.  Add crispy bacon and tomato.

The Croque-Mix strawberry jam with a little Balsamic vinegar.  Spread on the bottom bun.  Lay on meat, then arugula and shaved red onion.

The Petey (it’s how he likes his ham sandwiches)-Spread mayonnaise on bottom bun.  Layer pork, white American cheese, and kettle potato chips.

Hey Mack-Diced onion, dill pickle slices, American cheese, and 1000 Island dressing.

The Kid-Mix lemon juice into Duke’s mayo to taste.  Spread on bottom bun, then layer pork, crispy pancetta, kale shoots, and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The What?-Spread Miracle Whip on bun.  Add pork, fried green tomato, and pea shoots.

The Bayless-Green salsa on bottom bun.  Melt Queso fresco or Oaxaca on the pork, then add thinly sliced avocado.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have space for all of my ideas.  You are welcome to email me and I’ll send you the rest, or…have some fun with the family coming up with some ideas of your own.

Thanks for your time.

That’s all pork, folks

I feel like I wasted thirty years of my life.

I have a headache.

All those days I drove myself crazy trying to figure out, for one more meal, what protein to cook.  Beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and pork; they’re my usual guest stars.

With pork it was chops, Boston butt, ham, and happily, bacon.

A couple of years ago, I was in the supermarket, checking out the meat that had been marked down, like I always do.  You never know what you’ll find.  That day they had pork tenderloins for about three bucks, down from their usual 6-7 dollars.Pork tenderloin comes from the full loin.  It’s about eight inches long and a couple inches across.  It weighs between 12 and 24 ounces.  The meat is very tender, if it’s cooked correctly.  It’s very easy to overcook and end up with jerky.  But it’s also very easy to cook right—you just need one simple tool (more on that later).

The flavor is extremely mild, so it’s easy for it to come out bland and flavorless.  But again, that’s easy to remedy.  It also gives you an opportunity for lots of fun.

I usually impart flavor in a three-step process.

1.)Dry marinade-I freeze the tenderloin solid.  Then I choose an herb/spice blend, and liberally rub it over the entire surface.  For one piece of meat I’ll use at least a tablespoon.  I then put it into a zip-top bag and let it thaw in the fridge overnight.

2.)Paint-After searing the meat in a smoking-hot pan, I choose a some type of spread and brush it all over.

3.)Crust-Once the tenderloin is covered in something wet, I roll it in something chunky or crusty.  Then I finish it in the oven.

The most difficult, but also the most exciting part of the process is choosing the components for your pork.

The other night I tried a new combination for Petey and me.  It came out beautiful and delicious.  The spice comes from the Middle East, the dressing and pecans from the Southern US.

 Globetrotting tenderloin

pecan pork loin

One pork tenderloin (approximately 1 pound)

1 tablespoon za’atar; a spice mixture containing thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and other herbs, depending on who makes it.  I purchase mine pre-mixed from Spice Bazaar at 4125 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, in Durham.

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

2 tablespoons Anne’s “The One Sauce”; this is a rich honey mustard dressing.  If you can’t find it, use your favorite honey mustard, or make your own.

¾ cup raw pecans, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix za’atar, salt and pepper.  Rub the seasoning all over the frozen pork.  Place in bag, refrigerate, and allow to thaw fully.

Put a large frying pan on the stove, and heat until it’s almost smoking.  Pour in 1 tablespoon oil.  Add tenderloin and turning with tongs, sear all over.  Remove from pan, and place on a plate.

Brush a layer of dressing all over the pork.  Roll the meat into the pecans, completely coating it.

Pour the second tablespoon of oil into a baking dish.  Add pork.  Either using a probe thermometer or an instant-read, cook until the internal temp is 145 degrees (for medium).  If you overcook this, it will be dry and tough.  A thermometer is the best tool to easily prevent that.

Once it comes up to temp (about 15-20 minutes), remove from oven and let rest, lightly covered for five minutes or so.

Slice and serve.  Serves 2-3.

There are less than 250 calories in a large serving of tenderloin.  It’s also a lean protein, chockfull of vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin.  There are healthy amounts of omega (3 & 6) fatty acids, too.

We had ours with scalloped potatoes and some peas and carrots.  It would also be nice served with buttered mushroom rice, and roasted asparagus.  I think it could make a very tasty sandwich on ciabatta, with crispy greens, and another schmear of honey mustard.

I’m glad I finally discovered the wondrousness of pork tenderloin.  It just breaks my heart to think of all the delicious meals I’ve missed out on.

Thanks for your time.