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Cocoa Nib and Fennel Encrusted Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin may very well be my favorite cut of meat. It is perfect on so many levels. It’s lean, but still incredibly juicy and tender. It’s fairly inexpensive. It can be cooked using lots of different techniques. And it’s mild taste is the perfect base for a multitude of different flavor combinations.

Cocoa Nib and Fennel Encrusted Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Pork tenderloin (about 1 to 1 1/4 lbs), trimmed of excess fat
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line the inside of a roasting pan with aluminum foil. If you don’t have a roasting pan, a deep ovenproof baking dish will also work.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, grind the cocoa nibs and fennels seeds until coarse. Transfer to a small bowl and add the remaining ingredients through the cayenne pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.
  3. Using your hands, rub the tenderloin with 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Next, rub the cocoa nib/spice mixture all over the tenderloin, massaging it into the meat and making sure everything is evenly coated. I know, this is messy. But trust me, it’s so worth it!
  4. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with the remaining tablespoon of canola oil. Place the tenderloin in the skillet and cook, turning to achieve even browning on all sides of the pork. Your kitchen should smell heavenly at this point. I usually let it cook about 2 minutes on each side. You really don’t want to cook it much longer than this, because the sugar and chocolate in the rub will start to burn.
  5. Transfer the browned tenderloin to your roasting pan and place in the pre-heated oven. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin reaches 145-150 degrees Fahrenheit. For me, this takes approximately 13-15 minutes, but it’s a good idea to check the temperature with your thermometer after 10 minutes, as pork tenderloin cooks quickly and ovens can vary.
  6. Once your tenderloin is cooked, removed it from the oven, tent with foil, and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes at room temperature. Cut the pork tenderloin into slices and serve immediately. Although, the leftovers are equally delicious the next day!
Notes
1. I find cooking the pork tenderloin to 145-150 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal when serving this dish to a crowd. The slices off the thicker end will be a bit pink still, while the slices from the narrow end of the tenderloin will be more well done (and should have no pink on left them). Everyone in your group should be able to find something that suits their taste.
Cocoa Nib and Fennel Encrusted Pork Tenderloin

Beer Macaroni and Cheese

Beer Macaroni and Cheese

This isn’t one of those foods that claims to have beer in it, but then barely tastes of beer in the final dish. Just the opposite, in fact. The beer flavor here is quite strong. So use something that you really like to drink, but won’t overwhelm the whole dish. I recommend a Pilsner or an Amber Ale. But if you want something with more bite to it, you could certainly try out your favorite IPA.
Full disclosure time: since about half of the liquid in the sauce comes from the beer, this macaroni and cheese isn’t as rich and creamy as traditional versions which use all dairy. But it tastes like beer. So I’m not complaining.
Cheers,
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked elbow pasta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup beer
  • 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 ounce cream cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 10-12 basil leaves, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the elbow noodles and cook according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Place the pot back on the stovetop over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour. Cook the flour with constant whisking for about 1 minute. Add the milk, beer, cheese and spices. Continue to whisk until the cheese is completely melted and the mixture has thicken slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked and drained noodles to the cheese mixture and stir to combine. Transfer everything to a casserole or baking dish. Top with the bread crumbs.
  3. Bake the macaroni and cheese in your pre-heated oven for 25 minutes. Then remove it from your oven and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes. Top with sliced basil leaves and serve.
  4. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Beer Macaroni and Cheese

Barbecue Pork Polenta Bowls with Pineapple and Guacamole

Barbecue Pork Polenta Bowls with Pineapple and Guacamole

Ingredients
  • For the Pork
  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs)
  • 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
  • For the Bowls
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • About 1 1/2 cups cubed pineapple
  • About 1 cup guacamole
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Lime wedges
Instructions
  1. Make the barbecue pork. Place the pork tenderloin in your slow cooker. Cover with the barbecue sauce. Place the lid on your slow cooker and turn it on. Cook the pork tenderloin until it’s extremely tender and falls apart easily, about 4 hours on the high setting or 8 hours on the low setting. Using two forks, shred the pork into smaller pieces. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. Make the polenta. In a heavy bottom saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta and turn down the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook the polenta for about 15-18 minutes, whisking frequently during this time. As the polenta cooks and thickens, you’ll have to further turn down the heat to prevent it from bubbling and splattering. Once the polenta has thickened and the liquid is mostly absorbed, remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the mascarpone cheese, butter and salt. Set aside and keep warm.
  3. Assemble the bowls. Divide the polenta evenly between four bowls. Top with some of the shredded pork, pineapple and guacamole. Top with cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, if desired. Serve immediately.
  4. Leftovers cans be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for 2-3 days. The polenta will become firm once it’s cooled. Whisk in some warm water or milk to help loosen it.

Barbecue Pork Polenta Bowls with Pineapple and Guacamole

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