Spinach and Feta Stuffed Pork Tenderloin served with mildly spiced vegetable sauce is what’s on the menu today, but first let me tell you a little about the weather we’ve been having here in Arizona. How many times will you hear me tell you how much I love the weather here? —not too often, and especially not in summer. But for the past few days, it’s been very cold in the morning and beautiful in the afternoon! The warm and sunny afternoons remind me why I like to live here. Can you sit out on your porch in December wearing a t-shirt?
On to the food. It won’t be long now when we’ll be sitting down and celebrating the holidays with friends and family, or maybe just taking the time to get into contact with people on the “Get Together With…” list.
One dish that’s a crowd pleaser is Spinach and Feta Stuffed Pork Tenderloin. I think people like it because it’s pretty when you see it sliced and lined up on plate, inviting all to enjoy. Pork tenderloin is also a very tender meat and it’s low in fat. If you know how to tie-up the meat it’s not a complicated dish to make. My brother Frank surprised me one time when he saw me tying a roast and asked if he could try. I was doubtful but told him, “Sure, go ahead.” He’s does a little home cooking, but not enough to have learned that, and he tied it perfectly. To make the story short, he said he learned it in the school of veterinary medicine. At any rate, it wasn’t just beginners luck.
In the healthy recipe below I have included pictures and links to tutorials to help you. The sauce is dairy-free and complements the meat nicely. I hope you enjoy it!
2-1/2 pounds pork tenderloin (2 strips for a total of 2-1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1-1/2 cup finely chopped onion
½ pound fresh spinach
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
For the Sauce:
1 cup finely chopped onion
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 cup finely sliced carrots
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
2 cups water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1-1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon Chipotle pepper (or your choice of heat, cayenne is a good alternative)
1 bay leaf
For the Roast:
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and when it is hot add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the onion is transparent.
Wash the spinach, remove the stems, place it in a skillet, salt it lightly, and then add a pinch of water. Cover and cook just until the spinach looks fully cooked. This should only take 2 to 3 minutes. Rinse the spinach and squeeze the liquid out. Let it relax and then squeeze again. The spinach should be very dry. Chop the spinach well.
Trim the fat off the tenderloin, and remove the silver skin (see this tutorial), but DO NOT make cuts!
Butterfly the tenderloin with the flatter side facing up, by slicing lengthwise down the middle of the loin without cutting through all the way. Lay the meat open on top of a piece of plastic and top with a second sheet of plastic.
Pound the tenderloin to a thickness of ½ inch, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Layer the onions, spinach and feta cheese on top of one of the sides of tenderloin.
Cut a piece of string 6-1/2 times the length of the meat, and lay it under the meat toward the top end with 6 to 7 inches of string extending beyond the meat on the right side.
Place the second piece of meat on top and begin to tie up the roast on both sides (SEE VIDEOS), and then season with salt and pepper.
Pre-heat the oven to 475°, place the meat on a roasting pan and set it on the middle rack in the oven. Immediately lower the heat to 350° and bake about 45 minutes, turning the meat over half-way through the baking time. Cook until the temperature in the center if the roast reaches 160° to 162°. After removing the roast from the oven, cover with foil and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. The temperature should continue to rise to 165°.
Make The Sauce:
In a small saucepot sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is transparent. Add the flour and stir well for 30 seconds.
Add the tomatoes, carrots, bay leaf, and 2 cups liquid (water, chicken stock or vegetable stock). Cook until the carrot is tender, stirring from time to time, and more often as the water evaporates.
Remove the bay leaf and add the tomato paste, salt, and chipotle pepper. Blend the sauce until smooth, adding more liquid if necessary. Check the seasonings and bring it back to a boil if you added more liquid.