Fire Up for Feta Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

by Kelly on May 24, 2010   

Grilled pork tenderloin, shown here with manaesh from my local Middle Eastern market -- it's a flat bread with zaatar (thyme, sesame, olive oil, salt) on top

Time to fire up the grill for the season. The charcoal one, that is. I use my gas grill all year round, but the charcoal grill gets a spring cleaning and makes its appearance right about now. I think it’s a daylight savings time issue — I don’t like to grill in the dark. I’d fixed up the grill, I had a lovely pork tenderloin in the fridge, and now all I needed was charcoal for my little Weber.

I headed out for some mesquite charcoal, which I buy at one of my neighborhood Middle Eastern markets. I am lucky to live so close to several of these small, family-owned markets. Well, it started with the charcoal, but then I saw freshly baked manaesh, and thought the salty thyme and sesame bread would go well with pork. That led to a trip to the deli counter, where I bought Greek feta (stuff the tenderloin, yes!) and fresh yogurt for a sauce of some sort. I decide the yogurt needed a kick, so I located the harissa — a solidly spicy chili paste from North Africa — and nearby were some lovely sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (of course, more for the stuffing!). I felt like I was in an episode of Top Chef, creating my menu as I trolled the aisles. Next to last I grabbed a bunch of fresh cilantro for the sauce. I got in trouble at the check-out, because there was a roasted nut mix, and I had to have that, too. To go with what? A beer, I guess.

Feta and Sun-dried Tomato Stuffed Pork Tenderloin | 3 servings

Pork tenderloins range in size from about 3/4 to a little over 1 pound. Typically one will serve three people, maybe even with a little bit left over. To serve any more than three people you’ll need more tenderloin. This is easy to put together while the grill is firing up.

1 pork tenderloin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces feta cheese
4 to 5 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
Dried thyme
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice, about 1/4 lemon
1 teaspoon harissa, or to taste
Small pinch sugar
Small pinch salt
10 to 12 sprigs cilantro, leaves chopped, about 1 heaping tablespoon

Light a charcoal grill.

This tenderloin was exactly 1 pound, and it served three with one or two slices left over

Lay the tenderloin on a cutting board. With a small, sharp knife, cut a deep pocket into the rough side (rather than the rounded side) of the tenderloin. Take care not to cut all the way through the meat.

Start at the narrow end, working back toward the thick end

Sprinkle the inside of the tenderloin with salt and pepper.

It's almost like butterflying the tenderloin

Arrange thin slices of feta and whole sun-dried tomatoes inside the pocket. Sprinkle with dried thyme.

Arrange them close together so that every slice contains some "stuffing"

Fold the flap back over the top and secure with toothpicks.

I used three toothpicks -- they will be removed before you serve the tenderloin

Drizzle some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes over the tenderloin and sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and dried thyme.

There is a nice tomato-y flavor to the oil

Contrary to earlier assumptions, salting the meat before grilling does not dry it out -- what's important is to rest the meat after cooking, covered and for a good 5 minutes

On a preheated grill, cook the tenderloin 7 to 10 minutes per side, until a meat thermometer reaches 140°F.

Over mesquite charcoal, which gets hotter than briquets, the pork cooks quickly -- mine took only 7 minutes per side

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, harissa, sugar, salt and cilantro. Set aside until needed.

Taste as you go to determine how much harissa is enough

Cover the meat loosely with foil and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Remove the toothpicks and slice into 3/4-inch rounds. Serve with a dollop of sauce and have the extra sauce on the table.

And since it’s light outside, have that beer and those nuts. Hey, nuts are good for you!

Kelly McCune © 2010

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