Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pork Tenderloin with Cheese Polenta & Sauteed Kale

I grew up eating polenta... I just didn't know it. Having not an ounce of Italian blood, we called it Cornmeal mush.... hmmm, somehow not as appealing as polenta!  My Mom served it warm for breakfast, like a hot cereal, with grated cheddar cheese and bacon bits on top... oh yeah, and some melted butter!  Pretty fantastic, and even makes a great dinner too.  She usually made extra "mush" and added it to a loaf pan, refrigerating it until firm.  She'd slice it, and fry it up later with a dinner.  Same thing as all those Italian Mamas do. I really can't believe people buy this stuff already made, because it is so easy and cheap to make yourself! There is no right, or wrong, way to make polenta, it's as varied as the types of dishes that it's served in.  In it's simplest form, it's water and cornmeal, or made with broth, cream, butter and cornmeal, and many more combinations.

We liked this recipe, which I dreamed up tonight, because it was tangy (kale), creamy (polenta) and tender and savory (pork).  The kale is delicious with the combination, but any greens will work.  I just love kale so much, I can eat half a bunch on my own, luckily it's so good for you! For the polenta, almost any cheese would do, I like to use goat cheese, it's my favorite!

Serves about 4
1 1/2 lb. pork tenderloin
1 tsp. granulated garlic powder
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced

1 cup cornmeal
4-5 cups of water, or stock, or combination of both
1/2 cup sliced green onions, white and green parts
1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated
2 Tbsp cream cheese

Sauteed Kale:
1 large bunch kale, cut into 1" pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp. Red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

In a Ziploc bag, add the pork tenderloin and all the spices,1 Tbsp. olive oil and lemon juice.  Massage the bag with the meat in it (keeps your hands clean), making sure that the tenderloin is well coated with the spices and liquid.  Let it sit for 30-60 minutes.

Heat oven to 375.
In a large fry pan, heat another 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat, remove the pork from the marinade letting the liquid drip off, and then add to the pan, turning to brown each side uniformly. 

Remove meat to a baking dish and put into the oven for about 25-30 minutes.  The pork tenderloin can easily get overcooked as it's so lean, so the internal temperature should be approx 140-145 and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing it. If you don't have an instant thermometer, you can give the meat a poke with your finger, if it feels firm, you are getting close.  You can always cut into it and check...

In a saucepan, add about 3 cups of stock, or water, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to medium heat, gradually add the cornmeal, whisking constantly. Keep stirring to avoid lumps. You will notice right away that the cornmeal polenta is starting to thicken. 

Keep adding more liquid as needed, and keep cooking for about 15 minutes until it has a creamy consistency.  Add the cream cheese and stir completely until it is melted, add the Romano cheese and continue mixing  Add the green onions. At any time, if it seems too thick to you, add in more liquid and stir.  If your polenta is done before the rest of the meal, remove from the heat, cover and keep warm.  As a note, I added more liquid again before I served it as it continued to thicken. 

Cut up the Kale into 1" pieces.

Cook the kale in the same skillet you browned your tenderloin over medium high heat. If it needs more olive oil, you can add a bit more.  Add the juice of half a lemon (or less, if you don't like it too tangy), add red pepper flakes and salt.  Cook until the kale starts to soften, but still retains it's bright green color. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

To serve, place polenta on the plate adding the sauteed kale and slices of roasted tenderloin alongside.  Drizzle pan juices on top and serve. 

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