The Food Almanac: Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Staff Writer
It's Pork Tenderloin Day!

Although some recipes call for slicing it into steaks, the best way to cook a pork tenderloin is to leave it whole.

Today’s Flavor

Today is Pork Tenderloin Day. A pork tenderloin is analogous to the tenderloin of beef. It’s a tube-shaped muscle that doesn’t get used a lot by the animal. So it lacks the fibrous quality of most other cuts of meat, has an almost smooth texture, and is very tender. Pork tenderloins have always been around, but it’s only in the last couple of decades that they’ve become wildly popular. It’s about as big around as a child’s wrist, about ten inches long, tapered at the ends, and weighs about a pound. Usually two of them come in a single package. Unless it’s badly trimmed , it’s ready for seasoning and cooking.

Although some recipes call for slicing it into steaks, the best way to cook a pork tenderloin is to leave it whole. It’s compact enough to fit into a medium-large skillet, and even if you wind up doing most of the cooking in the oven it helps to brown it first on top of the stove. That way you can whip up a pan sauce from what’s left behind.

Pork tenderloin is one of the leanest meats we eat, with less fat than a skinless, boneless chicken breast. Yet it’s so tender that unless you grossly overcook it there’s no need to add any further fat to it. The right temperature, I’d say, is about 155 or 160. (That leaves a blush in the center, but it’s well within the bounds of safety for pork.) They also lend themselves to slow smoking. They’re thin enough that you can leave the temperature of the smoker low. I’ve seen some pork tenderloins smoked so gently that they pink “smoke ring” penetrates all the way through, even after it’s fully cooked. That is a wonderful flavor indeed.

Gourmet Gazetteer

There are three places called Curry in Alabama. One is a former station on the Southern Railway, about five miles northeast of Talladega. It’s in the Appalachian hills just east of Birmingham, where the railroad snakes around deep ravines. Curry today is the site of a large farm with open fields on one side of the tracks and fruit orchards on the other. The second instance of Curry is in Walker County, near the Lewis Smith Lake dam, on the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River. This Curry is about fifty miles west northwest of Birmingham, and is the center of a large rural area, with a high school and a golf course, both on Curry Road. So are several restaurants, the most promising of which is Sisters Country Basket, a mile away from the high school. (It’s unlikely that you will find any kind of curry dish there, though.) The smallest Curry–just a crossroads in the woods, really–is forty-two miles south of Montgomery.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

Note that the two pork tenderloins in a package are usually of different sizes, and cook accordingly. On a more superstitious note: If you grill or roast a pork tenderloin whole, and then cut it into fewer than ten slices, you will overdraw your bank account at some time before the next gibbous moon.

Deft Dining Rule #352:

Never order a pork tenderloin in a restaurant before getting the answer to this question: “Is it really a tenderloin, or just plain loin?” If the answer is yes, say, “Okay, but I’ll send it back if it’s as big around as my arm!”

Edible Dictionary

bûche de Noël, French, n.–Called Yule log in English, it’s a cake made to resemble a log ready for the fireplace. It’s made with sponge cake spread with buttercream frosting, them rolled up. It’s covered with a light chocolate frosting spread to resemble tree bark, then sprinkled with powdered sugar to represent fallen snow. A really well-made buche de Noel will have a small, cut-off branch (made the same way) sticking out of it, and marzipan decorations that resemble mushrooms or lichen. It’s more impressive to see than to eat, but it’s an essential dessert for the Christmas holidays.

Annals Of Fast Food

The first Burger King opened today in Miami, Florida in 1954. James McLamore and David Edgerton–both graduates of Cornell University’s well-known school of restaurant and hotel management–were inspired by the original McDonald’s in California, and worked up their own version of it. It grew quickly through franchising to become the second-biggest hamburger chain in the world, which it remains today. The first Burger King in the New Orleans area opened in 1965 on Airline Highway near Turnbull. It’s still there.

Gourmets Through History

Actress and singer Lillian Russell was born today in 1861. In the late 1800s, she was considered the ideal beauty, and was the desire of all red-blooded American men. The funny thing about that is that she ate like a horse, and tucked her 185-pound body into corsets to create her very ample hourglass figure. She was the girlfriend of Diamond Jim Brady, a serious gourmet and voluminous eater. Lillian never had any trouble keeping right up with him at the table.

Wine On Television

Today in 1981, the prime-time soap opera Falcon Crest aired for the first time, on CBS. Described as Dallas with wine, it was set in a California winery (the one in the show is really Spring Mountain Winery in Napa). It was much less about wine than about the romantic intrigues among the characters. It was on the air for nine years.

Food Namesakes

Rock musician John Cale was born today in 1940. . . Frances Crabbe, an early British feminist, was born today in 1822. . . Lloyd Bacon a supporting actor on many Charlie Chaplin movies, heard “Action!” today in 1889

Words To Eat By

“A hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.”–Samuel Butler, English writer, born today in 1835.

Words To Drink By

“A cup of coffee–real coffee, home-browned, home ground, home made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream that never cheated, but was real cream from its birth, thick, tenderly yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy nor frothing on the Java: such a cup of coffee is a match for twenty blue devils and will exorcise them all.”–Henry Ward Beecher.