Tea-Brined Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Raspberry Sauce
We're not passionate tea drinkers around here, though I do enjoy a cup now and then of English Breakfast or, for a special treat, Lapsang Souchong. (The water for my tea comes gushing out of the boiling water spigot of my Pasquini Livia 90 espresso machine, which may give a clue to which way my hot-liquid passions are oriented.) And I rarely use tea in my cooking, aside from the green tea ice cream that happens about once a year around here. But there is one dish I do that uses tea in a fairly unusual way: tea-brined grilled pork.
Brining pork before cooking is a traditional way to tenderize and add flavor to pork. This method has become more important in recent years as pork has been bred to be leaner and therefore has become tough and less juicy. I've been experimenting for years with various brining mixtures, and I found that this tea brine adds a subtle flavor to the meat while tenderizing it quite well.
The raspberry sauce is a recent addition to the presentation of this dish, inspired by the presence of a box of fresh-picked raspberries at my favorite local farm stand the other day. I usually serve this with a mushroom ragout and a mound of celriac remoulade on the side.
2 lb pork tenderloin (or loin roast or chops)
for the brine:
8 bags Assam tea or other black tea
2 qt water, boiling
2 qt water, cold
2 C brown sugar
3/4 C Kosher salt
1/4 C cognac
2 bay leaves
1 lemon, sliced
1/2 C white vinegar
6 peppercorns, whole
for the rub:
3 T rosemary, minced
3 T mint, minced
zest of 1 lemon, minced
2 T canola or other vegetable oil
for the sauce:
1 C + 1/4 C fresh raspberries
4 T white sugar
1/2 C water
1 T lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 T corn starch dissolved in 1-1/2 T cool water
1 tsp cognac
1. Brine the pork.
Add the tea bags to the boiling water and remove from heat. Steep about 10 minutes and remove tea. Add the sugar, salt, cognac, and vinegar and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Add the cold water, bay leaves, lemon and peppercorns. Submerge the pork in the brine and refrigerate for 6 -12 hours.
2. Grill the pork.
See Grill Basics for equipment and procedures.
Remove the pork from the brine. Discard brine. Rinse, then pat pork dry. Coat with the oil. Roll the pork in the rub mixture and allow it to rest for 15 - 30 minutes. Grill on a medium-hot charcoal fire about 8 - 10 minutes on a side (for tenderloin or chops; longer for loin roast) until an internal temperature of 155º is reached. Remove from fire and cover tightly with foil and allow to rest about 15 minutes. Internal temperature should be about 160º when ready to serve.
3. Make the sauce.
Simmer 1 cup fresh raspberries in the water with the sugar until the berries break down, the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly, about 8 minutes. Add the lemon juice, salt, and vinegar and stir for 30 seconds more. Add the corn starch mixture and cook 30 seconds to a minute more to thicken. Strain sauce, add the cognac and the remaining 1/4 cup whole berries.
To serve, slice the pork and place the slices on a pool of sauce on the plate. Scatter a few of the whole berries over the meat and garnish with fresh rosemary or mint leaves.