Mojo pork tenderloin 1

That’s mojo, specifically Cuban-style.  It’s a visual pun!

First of all, run right out and get some cheap pork right now!  Since the swine flu panic turned out to be so much ado about nothing (and, really, who could possibly have seen that coming?), I imagine the prices will go back up in a hurry.

This tenderloin, about three quarters of a pound, cost me $4.50, which is actually quite amazing for my extremely urban neck of the woods.  Generally, if you want to pay less than $30 a pound for your meat here in the down-town, you have to either cut off the green parts or kill it yourself.

As for the mojo, I have absolutely no Cuban heritage to my credit and have, in fact, never even tasted authentic mojo.  Nonetheless, I’ve had a bee in my hat to give it a try for quite some time.  So why not now?  Hey, even if it sucked, I’ve only drained $4.50.

Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cuban-Style Mojo (Sour Orange Sauce)

Mojo pork tenderloin 2

Assemble the ingredients for your fairly inauthentic mojo.  It’s traditionally made with sour oranges, but I didn’t have access to any of those.  My local grocer does, however, sell something called “Florida juice oranges,” which are distinct from your standard navel.  Since I did plan to use them for juice, I bought two, along with a lime for some extra tartness, and some white wine vinegar for even yet an additional layer of sourness.  Add some garlic and some dried oregano, and I figure I’ve taken every possible step toward replicating the original short of ashing a Cuaba into it while I cook.

Mojo pork tenderloin 3

Whoa, those Florida juice oranges?  They are juicy.  They are Juice City, and I’m the mayor.  (I’m also, due to some excessively enthusiastic squeezing, the winner of the annual wet t-shirt contest.)  Anyway, juice the oranges and the lime, then splash in a bit of vinegar until it burns juuuuuust a wee bit in the back of your throat, like too many Sour Patch Kids.  Add a dash of dried oregano and half a head (about 6 largeish cloves) of pressed garlic.  Cancel any existing plans to make out with anyone tonight.

Reserve half the liquid (should be around a half-cup) to form the pan sauce later.  Take what remains and water it down until you have approximately a cup; this will become the brinerade.  (Hey, I don’t make up the non-words.  Blame Cook’s Illustrated, although they typically have the decency to put it in quotes.)

Mojo pork tenderloin 4

Add the salt (a hefty Tablespoon or so – the approximate level of salinity I go for is seawater) and a bit of sugar, whisk it up, and get your pork tenderloin to soakin’.  I like a Ziploc bag for full coverage.

Mojo pork tenderloin 5

Turn it a few times if you think of it.  This, uh… brineraded for about two or three hours; I wouldn’t give it much more than that due to the high acid content.

Once you’re ready to begin cooking, obtain a serious skillet.  This is my grandmother’s cast-iron baby, and I assure you, when I get out Marion O’Hare’s skillet, I am not kidding around.

Serious Skillet

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: Put an oven mitt on your non-dominant hand now.  Do not take it off until you are done cooking.  Otherwise, you will forget and grab the scalding-hot handle of the skillet.  No, really, you will.  No, really.

Crank the heat to high, and melt in a bit of butter and olive oil (why both? why not?).

Mojo pork tenderloin 6

Brown the tenderloin on all sides, then drop the heat to medium and allow it to cruise gently to doneness.  Mine took about 10 minutes, but it was pretty small – if you’re up over a pound, or if you have two in the same skillet, it might be closer to 15.

Mojo pork tenderloin 7

Kill the heat and allow the meat to rest

Mojo pork tenderloin 8

while you whip up a pan sauce.  Pour out the accumulated fat in the skillet, then dump in the reserved mojo (no need to put the heat back on; your Serious Skillet is still plenty hot).  Give it a stir to warm it through, scrape up the brown bits of deliciousness, then melt in a pat of cold butter.

Mojo pork tenderloin 9

Slice and serve the meat immediately, with the warm sauce poured over it.  Muy delicioso! Sweet, tangy, and brimming with garlic – and, of course, lusciously caramelized porky goodness.  The brine should have kept the meat moist, especially if you haven’t undone all your good brinerading efforts by overcooking the pork.  See up there at the top how the pork is pink in the middle?  It’s OK!  These aren’t your grandmother’s pigs that ate garbage, and as we’re all coming to realize, they’re more than likely free of flu germs as well.