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Pork Tenderloin simplicity itself

Thursday, January 10, 2002

By Suzanne Martinson, Food Editor, Post-Gazette

Kurt Karafinski's pork tenderloin is the kind of recipe a hurried cook hopes someone will build a cookbook around.

The pork is tender and delicious, wonderful enough to be the centerpiece in creating a beautiful Valentine's Day dinner. Three ingredients (not counting salt and pepper). It's done in just under a half-hour, perfect for a weekday holiday (hearts and flowers day is on a Thursday this year). You do have to wash two pans, not one, but cleanup is a perfect excuse for a little tete-a-tete in the kitchen afterward.


"A little sweetness, a little tartness," as Kurt describes the dish. Just like the best of relationships.

When we called Kurt to tell him that his recipe was a Countdown to Dinner winner -- his fourth -- we mentioned that he had submitted the recipe with no name.

"I just call it Balsamic Pork Tenderloin," he says.

And therein lies our gaffe. We though we had a pork tenderloin (they typically come two to a package) in our freezer, but discovered in reality it was a pork loin, which is a thicker, though still wonderfully tender, cut of meat.

Thawed, the loin needed to be put to the fire, so we cut it in half and tried the recipe with it. It was delicious, though it took nearly an hour to get it roasted because of the thickness.

The second time, with the requisite tenderloin, the recipe came in right at 30 minutes. Also exceedingly tasty. Whichever pork cut you use, you'll have great sandwiches if you brown-bag it to work.

Kurt and I agreed that people tend to overcook pork, making it dry when it doesn't need to be. This is a holdover from the bad old days when cooks were taught to cook pork well-done because of the danger of trichinosis. We haven't seen that intestinal malady caused by undercooked pork for decades, but some cooks are still overcooking it until it's as dry as desert.

Kurt doesn't use a meat thermometer but generally cooks the seared tenderloin for 20 to 25 minutes. "Then I just make a cut and take a gander at the thick part. It should be slightly pink.

"Pork is really tasty if you don't overcook it. That's where you get your dried-out pork chops -- it's really too bad."

Slow-cooked pork was on the menu for the Glenshaw family's New Year's dinner. Kurt made a wonderful dish of pork chops, hot dogs, kielbasa and sauerkraut -- plus a peeled and cored apple -- that he cooked in a roasting pan after first browning the chops.

The dinner guests included his wife, Debby, their 4-year-old son, Christopher, and his father-in-law, Les Scott of Mt. Lebanon.

"There was not one thing left," the cook says.

The pork-sauerkraut dish was accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes. His secret: "I peel and cube the potatoes, then boil until they're nice and soft. A friend couldn't believe my mashed potatoes, because they don't have lumps. But I don't use an electric mixer; I use an old hand masher. I mash a little without anything but the potatoes, then add butter and milk, then mash with a little garlic powder."

Both Debby and Kurt work for Eckerd Drug. He is a senior systems analyst in the eligibility area, and she is an executive administrator for government and pharmacy relations.

Kurt is happy to have their son join him in the kitchen. "He likes to make anything that Daddy makes. He always says, 'I want to help! I want to help!' "

Dad says they've been successful at most of their baking ventures, save one time he was putting a pie together. "I started to put the liquid ingredients into the pie crust, and it overflowed onto the kitchen counter."

"Daddy, you're making a mess!" Christopher said. "I going to go watch football on TV."

And that was the end of that.


1 3/4 pounds pork tenderloin
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the pork tenderloin under cold water and trim any excess fat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat and sear tenderloin on all sides until nice and brown. Remove tenderloin and reduce the heat in the frying pan to medium. Add balsamic vinegar and scrape up any brown bits that are left in the pan. Stir in the brown sugar. Return the tenderloin to the pan and coat with the glaze.

Place in a roasting pan and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing. You can spoon any juices that accumulate in the roaster over the pork. Serve with a salad and enjoy.

Note: While it's in the oven, Kurt just makes some Stove Top Stuffing for a side dish.

-- Tested by Bob Martinson

Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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