Herbed Roast Pork Tenderloin: Easy and Elegant

Big Impact with Little Effort

photo by the author

I used to greet every dinner party as a challenge. Nothing readymade, only homemade food — and plenty of it. Four appetizers are too few! Crudité is so ordinary — we need empanadas! Let’s add a soup course! How about two dessert options!?

Can I just tell you, I evolved. I learned that there is no need to serve a meal’s worth of appetizers before guests settle down to dinner. I found an extremely good packaged hummus that opened the door for me to incorporate other readymades. Courses are optional, right?

And most important, I discovered that even the simplest meal, beautifully and thoughtfully prepared, will be special.

I continue to use dinner parties as a chance to master and test new recipes. In fact, as a person who lives alone, I count on that. But I keep a few go-to meals in my pocket — delicious recipes with impact that use a few common ingredients and don’t keep me cloistered in the kitchen. I serve them when I don’t have the time to get fancy.

Pork tenderloin recipes are at the top of that list. I’m always on the lookout for new options, and I found one in Toni Lydecker’s “Piatto Unico,” published by Lake Isle Press. It’s a book of one-course meals drawn from Italian traditions that also fit the demands of modern everyday life. Her recipe for Herbed Roast Pork Tenderloin with Parsnip Purée is simple but elegant and very tasty indeed. Plus, both dishes can be made ahead and served with a quick, easy reheat.

Each recipe came together for the first time without a hitch. I adjusted both, though: I used one tenderloin, not two, and cut the amount of parsnips by half — each was an easy adjustment. The new thing for me was butterflying the pork, which I did a little lopsidedly. However, I opened it like a book (albeit unevenly), so there you go. Otherwise, smooth sailing. I invited a friend over and we enjoyed an easy, no-fuss dinner that was a cut above the everyday, just as I had intended.

Pork tenderloin works beautifully when you want to serve something special that doesn’t take a lot of effort. It’s easy to make, and it’s also a snap to prepare it ahead if you want to: just undercook it at first, then bring it to the perfect temperature when you reheat it for your guests. Another plus, I loved that this recipe was paired with parsnip purée, which were simple to make and provided a nice difference from the more standard potatoes.

Glad to add another easy dinner option to my repertoire. I’m also so glad to be reminded that a dinner party doesn’t need to be a big production to have a big impact. Buon appetito!

makes 6 servings | prep: 15 minutes | cook: 20 minutes
Click here for printable recipe.

Leaves from 1 large sprig rosemary
Leaves from 1 large sprig sage
1 large clove garlic
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 strip lemon zest (peeled with a vegetable peeler)
Sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pork tenderloins (about 2 1⁄2 pounds total), at room temperature
Extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup white or red wine

Serve with parsnip purée (recipe below) or roasted potatoes

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine the rosemary and sage leaves, garlic, fennel seed, and lemon zest on a cutting board. Chop until very fine (alternatively, chop in a mini food processor.) Transfer the seasoning blend to a small bowl. Stir in 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper.

2. Cut lengthwise down the center of 1 tenderloin, stopping about 1 inch short of the other side. Open and flatten it like a book. Repeat with the other tenderloin. Rub the seasoning blend over the surface (facing up). Close each tenderloin and tie with butcher’s string (alternatively, use small metal skewers to secure). Lightly sprinkle the outside with salt and pepper. (The tenderloins can be covered and refrigerated for up to 12 hours at this point.)

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, adding enough olive oil to coat the bottom (about 2 tablespoons). Sear the tenderloins, turning with tongs, until browned on all sides. Transfer them to a roasting pan. Roast to an internal temperature of 135°F, or until the tenderloins are cooked but still slightly pink on the inside, about 15 minutes.

4. Transfer the tenderloins to a cutting board and allow them to rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add the wine and 1⁄2 cup water to the hot roasting pan, scraping up any savory browned bits. Reheat briefly in the oven. Cut the tenderloins into thick slices, arrange on plates, and drizzle the cooking juices over them. Serve with the parsnip purée or roasted potatoes.

Variation: Instead of serving the parsnip purée with the roast pork, drizzle half of the deglazed cooking juices over the sliced tenderloin and keep warm. Add 3 cups cooked white beans with some of the cooking liquid to the juices that remain in the roasting pan. Stir to coat well and heat in the oven; serve alongside the roast pork.

makes 6 servings | prep: 15 minutes | cook: 20 minutes
Click here for printable recipe

10 medium parsnips (about 2 1⁄2 pounds), peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
Up to 1⁄2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

1. Combine the parsnips and potatoes in a medium saucepan. Barely cover with water and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until very tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Drain the vegetables, reserving the liquid, and transfer them to a food processor bowl; process until smooth, adding some of the cooking liquid through the funnel (take care not to overdo it-the purée shouldn’t be too soupy to hold its shape on a plate). Season to taste with the salt and pepper and add the nutmeg; process briefly to blend in the seasonings.

3. Fill the bottom of a double boiler with about an inch of water (you can improvise a double boiler by fitting a bowl or smaller saucepan into a larger one). Scrape the contents of the food processor bowl into the top of the double boiler. Over low heat, mix in bits of the butter until incorporated. Taste and add as much of the cream as you please.

Recipes from “Piatto Unico” by Toni Lydecker, Lake Isle Press, 2011

Originally published at https://www.lakeislepress.com on February 25, 2021.

Dara O’Brien is the Creative Director of Lake Isle Press. When she isn’t cooking or writing about cookbooks, she writes plays and sometimes acts in them.

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