Pork tenderloin is something I admittedly don’t cook enough, and should because it’s one of the easiest meats. Whip up a marinade in the morning, let it flavor the pork in the fridge all day, come home and once you cook it, the tenderloin will be full of flavor. This tangy and sweet combination of balsamic vinegar, orange and hickory syrup gives a dynamic bite of flavor. Plus, just look at that caramelization!
This recipe came together in a very spontaneous, kind of experimental way. My aunt Sherri makes an amazing tenderloin with rosemary and orange marmalade, so I was inspired by the big bag of oranges I had in my kitchen, plus the hickory syrup I picked up at the farmer’s market. I had never heard of hickory syrup before, but got to talking with Bill from Hickory Valley Farms in Indiana this summer and he told me all about their process. Making hickory syrup is a complex 10 step process to extract flavor from the naturally bitter hickory bark. I loved the campfire-like flavor of the syrup, but maple syrup would also work in this recipe to cut through the tang of the oranges and acidity of the vinegar. (P.S. I’m doing Whole30 right now, so I wouldn’t include the added syrup!)
The beautiful thing about pork tenderloin is that it is a lean protein, but that also means you really need to amp up it’s flavor with a marinade. I mix up the sauce right in a plastic bag to save dishes, place the tenderloin in the bag and let it soak all day while I’m at work. When I get back 8 hours later, the pork is ready for cooking! You could even let it marinade overnight up to 24 hours.
Using my cast iron skillet, I first seared all sides of the pork to create a caramelized crust. This locks the juices inside before you place the meat in the oven to finish cooking. It’s such a gratifying feeling when the pork hits the hot pan! You can hear the marinade sizzling and smell the aroma of the caramelization. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can sear the pork tenderloin in your regular nonstick skillet and then transfer to an oven-safe baking sheet to finish cooking.
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 orange, juiced
- 2 tablespoons hickory or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pork tenderloin
- 1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- Mix all ingredients in the bag for the marinade.
- Place pork into the bag and marinate for at least 30 minutes, ideally 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Remove pork from the fridge. Heat up a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add oil to skillet.
- Sear each side of the tenderloin on the cast iron skillet until browned. Place pork and cast iron skillet into the oven to continue cooking to an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees (about 20 minutes).
- Remove the pork from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Slice pork and serve with your favorite sides.
Love food. Love self. Love life.