Grilled pork tenderloin, avocado puree, tequila salsa and dirty rice… recipe and pairings

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

So the other day I put out a pretty simple question to my Facebook followers… “What would you like to see for my next recipe?” I received a number of different requests, but the ones that resonated with me the most were:

A) Something grilled
B) Something good for Cinco de Mayo
C) Something easy to make
D) Something with less butter, cream and oil… i.e. something healthier (gasp!)

I mulled those requests over for a little while, and it dawned on me that I could kill four birds with one stone, errr, four requests with one recipe. I threw on my shoes, grabbed my keys and was halfway out the door when my wife added another twist to the challenge and told me that my budget for the meal was $20… ouch! That definitely took what I already had coming together in my head and threw it out the window. Now I can’t cook whatever I want. Now I have to hunt for bargains and then make it happen. Gee, thanks honey. <sarcasm>

So I got to the store and went straight to the meat & seafood section to see what was on sale. This was going to be the high ticket item and what I ended up with would decide where the rest of the dish went, both in terms of ingredients and what money I had left. Roast beef. Cod. Pork shoulder… Ugh. None of those are appropriate for the grill.  Then out of the corner of my eye I notice a package of nice looking pork tenderloin. My eyes immediately jumped to the price sticker to see if they’re on sale… nope. I was about to move on when my mind finally registered what I saw. $2.99/lb. Hold on one second, pork tenderloin that’s fresh and not on butcher’s closeout for $2.99 per pound!? No way. It had to be a mistake, but you know what, I’ll take advantage of it. 2lbs+ of really good looking tenderloin for $6.19, YES PLEASE.

Well now I had my protein, all I had to do was figure out what I was doing with it for no more than $13.81, in a Mexican theme. Salsa! Plum tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, limes… check, check, check and check. There went another $4, but I was feeling confident. I knew I wanted avocado (how can you make a Cinco de Mayo dish without it!?) but the prices have been insane lately. I took a gander at them anyway, and as luck would have it they were on sale for $1.67 per, great! So I have avocado for a puree, ingredients for salsa… I need a starch. What’s the predominant starch in Mexican cuisine? Rice. I got it, how about some dirty rice with black beans and corn? Done and done… $2.99, $0.89 and $0.69.

I headed over to the check out, only to be pleasantly surprised that I came in at just shy of $17 for everything. I still had three dollars to work with. Hmmm, what to do? I know, how about a nip of tequila for the salsa? $1.99 for a Cuervo airplane bottle… Finished!

Time to cook.

Serves 4

Ingredients (salsa):
1 1/2c Plum Tomato, diced
1/2c Red Onion, chopped
1/3c Cilantro, chopped
4tsp Granulated Sugar
1/2tsp Salt
1/2tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/5c Tequila (50ml bottle)
1 Lime

Ingredients (avocado puree):
1 Ripe Avocado
1 Lime
1/4tsp Salt
1/4tsp Ground Black Pepper

Ingredients (rice):
3/4c White Rice
2 1/4c Water
3/4c Black Beans, rinsed
3/4c Corn Kernels
1tsp Salt
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Garlic Powder
1/2tsp Paprika
1/2tsp Chili Powder
1/2tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1tbsp Olive Oil

Ingredients (pork):
2lbs Pork Tenderloin
2tsp Salt
2tsp Ground Black Pepper
2tsp Garlic Powder
Cooking Spray or Oil

Ok, so the first thing to do is make the salsa because ideally you want that to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to really come together. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, including zest and the juice from the lime, then cover and place in the refrigerator.

You can also make the avocado puree in advance. Combine the avocado meat, seasoning, and juice from the lime in a bowl and stir until you have a creamy texture and all lumps are broken down. You can use a food processor if you prefer, but I find it annoying to try to scrape the avocado off of the blades and sides. It’s easier to just mash it with a fork and then stir by hand. Cover the puree and place in the refrigerator.

Heat up the grill with all burners on high… let’s get things caliente!

Alright, so for the grilling portion of this show the instructions are based on a four burner gas grill. If you have something different you’ll just have to figure it out, which I’m sure should be no problem.

Three more quick notes… First of all, cooking times will vary from grill to grill because some get hotter than others. Secondly, I cook my pork to medium with a little pink in the center (hell, sometimes I go mid-rare). If you’re anti-pink pork obviously your cooking times will be longer. Last, cooking times can also vary based on the thickness of the tenderloin. The ones I purchased were roughly 2″ thick, which is about average, but I have seen some bigger and some smaller, so you’ll need to adjust accordingly.

Season the pork tenderloin with salt, pepper and garlic powder and allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before grilling. The reasoning behind this is because meat cooks more evenly when it’s had a chance to come up a bit in temperature from what it was at in the fridge. Some old school die hard pit bosses won’t cook their meat until it’s been sitting out for up to two hours!

Make sure the grill is nice and hot, and spray down the grates with cooking spray (or rub them with an oiled towel) so the pork doesn’t stick. Place your pork on the grill positioned diagonally (purely for aesthetics to get the nice crossed grill marks). Grill them for about 4-5 minutes then rotate them 90 degrees on the same side and grill for another 4-5 minutes. Flip the pork and repeat the previous steps. Take the pork off the grill and set aside at room temperature, allow it to rest for 15 minutes. The reason for resting meat in the middle of the cooking process is to allow the natural juices to reintegrate themselves into the meat. By resting the meat in the middle of cooking, as well as after cooking before it’s served, you get a much juicier, more flavorful end result.

Turn off the two burners on either the right or left side of the grill, keep the two burners on the opposite side on high, and close the grill. You’ll understand the reasoning shortly.

Take the salsa and avocado puree out of the fridge so they’re not too cold when it’s time to plate.

Once you remove the pork from the grill to rest it’s time to start the rice. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan at high heat, add the rice, black beans, corn and salt. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring periodically. Add the remainder of the seasonings and water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and cover, cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring periodically. Taste the rice as you hit the 20 minute mark to check on doneness. You don’t want it too crispy but you don’t want it mushy either. It will fall to your preference on doneness. Depending on how you time things the rice may be done before the pork. If so just remove the pot from the heat and set aside covered until you are ready to plate.

After the pork has rested for 15 minutes it’s time to finish it off. So you have your grill with one half on high and the other half turned off… what the heck? You’ve just turned your grill into an oven, but one that will still impart that gorgeous smoky grill flavor. You could keep it all lit up an throw your pork back on, that’s fine, but by doing it this way you end up with a much juicier piece of meat. I learned this technique of indirect heat grilling from a top notch chef, and after doing it that first time I’ve never gone back. It’s amazing the difference in the end product. That’s why you want that high heat at the start, to really sear the outside and seal in the juices, and then you finish it low and slow. The grill should be somewhere in the 300-325F range. So put your pork on the side that is turned off, as far from the heated burners as you can, close the lid and let them cook for another 15 minutes. Once they’re done let the pork rest at room temperature for at least 5 minutes before serving. If you don’t rest the meat at the end the juices will just run out when you cut it.

So the pork is rested, the rice is cooked, now it’s time to plate. As you can see in the picture, I put the avocado puree down first, the pork on top of that and then the salsa, with the rice on the side. But that’s just my plating preference, you go loco and do what you want!

Now let’s talk pairings… let’s have some fun.

Lucques Blanc, California – Lucques is a fun little side project of Pax Mahle, one of the top winemakers in California. Pax is best known for his labels Pax and Wind Gap, as well as Agharta (which I featured once on the site, and he’s the winemaker for Wilde Farm Wines who I’ve also discussed ( & Lucques was created as a way for Pax to market some experiments that didn’t quite meet the bar for his Wind Gap wines… Yeah, I know, it sounds a little less appealing when you call something the leftovers, but when you’re talking about Pax Mahle’s leftovers, you’re talking about wines that are still better than 90% of the juice coming out of California! So his Blanc is a super funky blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne, with the Chardonnay being the predominant varietal (about 50%). In the glass you find a medium to full bodied wine that is slightly cloudy (from lees aging and it’s bottled unfined and unfiltered) with a slightly creamy texture from malolactic fermentation (but it doesn’t come as buttery in flavor). On the palate you’ll find beautiful tropical notes of lemon zest, banana and underripe pineapple framed with subtle minerality and a touch of heat from the Viognier. With only 175 cases produced this one is a needle in a haystack find, but if you come across it then grab as much as you can, because at the price it’s a steal! PP Score: 90 (Retail $18-24)

Cherry Tomato Margarita – Yup, you read that right, a tomato margarita. Haven’t had one yet? Well, you’re missing out! Think Bloody Mary meets Margarita, minus the horseradish and celery, and you’re on the right mental track. I personally prefer yellow cherry tomatoes because I find the flavor to be slightly sweeter and more subtle, but it works with reds too. Blend down the tomatoes with cane sugar and lime juice. Strain the blended mixture and add Gran Marnier and tequila (I use a Silver). Serve chilled on the rocks with a skewered cherry tomatoes as garnish and a candied lime zest and salt rim… Delicious! Just be careful, they’re so good you’ll need to stop yourself before you go sideways.

Oskar Blues “Mama’s Lil Yella Pils”, Colorado – Yeah, I know, it’s a Mexican theme so I should be including a Mexican beer… but they’re just not good. Ok, let me correct that, the ones that are good are darker don’t work with this meal. The lighter bodied Mexican beers that would fit here simply pale in comparison to American or European beers. The best of the bunch is mediocre (or worse) compared to what we have here in the US. So, back to the beer at hand… Oskar Blues is one of my favorite breweries out of CO, and I’d have to say that Mama’s is my favorite beer they make. I had the luxury of serving it on tap for quite some time at my last restaurant, and it was simply stunning. The citrus notes and grassy hops pair beautifully with the salsa, and the crisp cleanness of the beer cut through the richness of the avocado and rice. PP Score: 89 (Six Pack Retail: $10-13)

So that’s my story, my recipe and my pairings. I hope you enjoyed the read, and I hope you try the recipe! New content coming soon, in the meantime make yourself a cherry tomato margarita, sit back, and relax. Life is short, enjoy it!


Published by Derek Martin

Husband, dad, home cook, wine snob... lover of bacon. I have spent my entire adult life surrounded by fine food and fine wines, starting with fifteen years working at, or running, some of New Jersey's top restaurants, and now the last two years working for one of the top fine wine distributors in the United States. I have absorbed a ton of information on food, wine, pairings and techniques during those seventeen years, and I'd love to share what I've learned with you!

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