Pork tenderloin is a very useful cut of meat – boneless, so it’s easy to deal with – and, when cooked with care, full of flavor and tender as butter. However, when tenderloin is overcooked and served naked, without a sauce, it can be almost inedibly dry and flavorless.
My preferred method of treating a tenderloin is to cut it crosswise into medallions and then sauté or grill the boneless cutlets.
Brining (soaking in a salt-and-sugar solution for several hours) can aid this cut immeasurably, encouraging the lean meat to retain moisture and injecting an enhancement of salt throughout.
The maple barbecue sauce for this scrumptious summer sandwich is made by doctoring a good-quality bottled sauce. For the coleslaw, make your own or buy some from the deli.
MAPLE BARBECUE PORK SANDWICHES
This delightfully messy, finger-licking sandwich is a meal unto itself and needs no accompaniments – except for a chocolate or butterscotch ice cream sundae for dessert.
BRINED PORK MEDALLIONS
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1¼ pounds pork tenderloin, cut in half crosswise
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable or light olive oil
MAPLE BARBECUE SAUCE
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups good-quality, smoke-flavored, bottled barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
4 Portuguese or Kaiser rolls, split
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
About 1½ cups coleslaw
To make the pork, in a small deep bowl, stir the salt and sugar into 1½ cups water until dissolved. Add the pork, making sure the brine covers it by 1 inch, and refrigerate, covered, for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large saucepan. When it’s shimmering, add onion and cook over medium heat until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and chili powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add barbecue sauce, ½ cup water and maple syrup and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until thick.
Stir in the vinegar. (The sauce will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week.) Divide sauce into 2 bowls – a small bowl to use for cooking, the larger amount to use as a condiment.
Build a medium-hot barbecue fire or preheat a gas grill. Remove pork from the brine, dry with paper towels and cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Place slices between sheets of plastic wrap and flatten with a small heavy saucepan or rolling pin into ¼-inch-thick cutlets.
Pat dry, season with pepper and brush with the oil.
Grill pork on the first side, brush with barbecue sauce, and turn to the second side. Cook, turning and brushing with more sauce, until just cooked through and the surface is lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes total.
Brush cut sides of rolls with oil and toast lightly on the edge of the grill. Spread generously with barbecue sauce, divide meat among the rolls, top with coleslaw and replace the tops. Cut in halves and serve.
Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at facebook.com/brookedojny