I saw a recipe for a braided pork tenderloin on line and thought it would be fun to try. When salad was requested for dinner last night I saw this as the perfect opportunity; I only had one tenderloin in the freezer and it was on the small side, so grilling and thinly slicing it to top off a salad was a good way to use it, and why not make it fun?
I used up some more of the vanilla Chai that I still have leftover from some truffles I made as Christmas gifts; that was used as the brine, along with apple juice and maple syrup. It looks a lot more involved than it was to make, and got some interesting reactions from my family members. The general consensus was that it tasted good, and that's all that really matters to me.
The salad was just greens with various vegetables that were in the fridge, topped with some toasted pecans and crumbled goat cheese, and of course the pork!
Trim any excess fat or silverskin off the pork tenderloin.
Cut it legthwise into 2 pieces.
Cut each piece into 3 strips, leaving a 1" piece uncut at one end. This will hold your braid together.
Starting at the joined end, braid the pork, using a toothpick to hold it together when you are finished.
Make the brine by combining the following:
3/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons Chai tea
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons salt
1 strip of lemon peel
Stir well to dissolve the salt.
Carefully place the pork braids into a resealable plastic bag. Pour the brine in and seal, removing as much air as you can.
Place on a plate or tray and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Remove the pork from the brine and rinse lightly under cold water, just enough to remove the bits of Chai. Mix together 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to glaze the pork with while it is grilling.
Cook on a hot, lightly oiled grill, turning and basting with the maple syrup often, until the pork is cooked through.
Because the pork is half the thickness of a full tenderloin it will take less time to cook.
When the pork is done, remove it from the grill and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before thinly slicing and serving it.
- I have to admit, making this was fun...not quite the usual presentation, and I found that the little grooves created by the braid held the maple glaze nicely, creating little pockets of flavour.
- I liked the spiciness of the Chai; if you don't then omit it or use a favourite spice such as ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon or fennel.
- Of course, any brine or marinade can be used. Leftover vinaigrette can also be used to marinate, so use what you have available. That is the whole point of this blog.
- The downside to this braided pork is that when you slice it you end up with little bits and pieces instead of whole slices. Since I was serving it on a salad that was fine. The upside is that it looks so good that you can present it at the table before slicing it, and wow everyone.
- Use the sliced pork on salads, in sandwhiches or wraps, to top off pasta or risotto.
- Tuck cloves of garlic, dried apricots or chunks of blue cheese into the braid and roast it instead of grilling it. For even more flavour, soak the apricots in juice or tea to plump them up before tucking them in.
- Firm fish such as salmon or cod can be braided as well, and if you use both in one braid you have a multi-coloured effect. Place the fish braid onto a piece of parchment paper for baking; this will make it easier to remove from the baking tray and serve. Brush it with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, fresh herbs and lemon zest.
- Chicken breast can also be braided; cut the breast in half horizontally so that you have two thin pieces of meat. Cut each into 3 pieces and braid, as with the pork.
- The pork can be braided and frozen, ready to marinate and cook, or it can be frozen in the marinade. Defrost and grill.