Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin Salad
Pork tenderloins are the chicken breasts of the porcine world. Lean and quick-cooking, they offer an expanse of mild, uninterrupted flesh without skin, bones or bits of gristle.
Being an admirer of skin, bones and bits of gristle myself, I tend to pass over tenderloins in favor of more sinewy, fattier cuts. But there are times when the tenderloin’s smooth texture and ease of preparation are exactly what I want for a recipe. And this spicy and crisp Thai-inspired salad is one of them.
The rest of the dish is so pungent and bright that the tenderloin’s main job is to meld its own gentle porky flavor with all the other salad ingredients, but not to dominate them in the way of, say, a couple of thick, bone-in, attention-getting pork chops.
As it marinates, the amenable meat soaks up a mixture of chiles, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime and herbs, then is caramelized on the grill or under the broiler, the bronzing of its exterior helped along by a bit of brown sugar.
Because it is so lean, you can serve this tenderloin hot, warm or at room temperature. I like it best when it’s still warm to the touch but no longer hot enough to wilt the salad—about 20 minutes after it’s finished cooking.
Just be sure not to overcook the meat; like a chicken breast, pork tenderloin goes from juicy to dry in a matter of minutes. As soon as the meat hits 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, pull it off the heat. The temperature will continue to rise as it rests. Then thinly slice it just before serving. And save the leftovers for sandwiches the next day.
This marinated tenderloin has enough personality to serve on its own, but mixing it into a slaw-like cabbage salad laced with mint, basil and cilantro is the most refreshing way to go on sultry nights. You can serve it as a one-dish meal, or give your guests little bowls of rice or rice noodles alongside to bulk it out if everyone is especially hungry.
For a final touch, I sprinkle the salad with a garnish of toasted peanuts or cashews and unsweetened coconut flakes. The lean meat and greens will benefit from the richness and fat, and everyone at the table will be happy for the crunch.
Recipe: Spicy Thai Pork Tenderloin Salad