This stunner, easy to make, is on Lucca's latest menu, served with a port wine reduction, caramelized onions in balsamic vinegar, a corn crème brûlée with sour cherries, and crispy leeks.
In keeping with the café's "all-natural" ethos, chef-owner Cathy Pavlos uses hormone-, antibiotic- and preservative-free Chairman's Reserve pork from Iowa.
Although it's tempting to do so, there's no need to cook the meat to 180 degrees, which tends to dry it out and leech its flavor. As Pavlos points out, there hasn't been a case of trichinosis in the US for over 70 years. At Lucca they cook it to medium rare to medium, and it truly makes a difference.
The following recipe is for a typical pork tenderloin of 1¼ to 2lbs, which should serve three to four people.
Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
¼ cup kosher salt
3 tbsp Turbinado sugar
0.4 tsp black pepper, ground
2 crumbled bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
3 cups water
Soak the tenderloin in the brine for no more than 1½ hours, rinse and pat dry. Next, put the rub on the pork.
3 tsp cumin seeds, ground
4 tsp coriander seeds, ground
2 tsp black peppercorns, ground
4 tsp fennel seeds, ground
2 tsp green chili powder, medium
2 tsp red chili powder, mild
Toast all the seeds and the peppercorns lightly in a sauté pan until the fragrance is released, then add them to a spice grinder and grind until medium consistency. Then add the chili powders.
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Roll the tenderloin in the spice rub, then season with sea salt.
Place the whole tenderloin on the grill, medium heat, and grill, turning often until the internal temperature on the pork reaches 132 degrees. Set it aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
To serve, slice the tenderloin against the grain of the muscle.