The holidays are stressful enough, never mind if you feel the need to reinvent your dinner repertoire every time someone new pops over. But at the same time, December is going to be an awful long month if you resort to making the same dish over and over again. So we figured there had to be a delicious middle ground.
And there was. Our idea was simple — pick a cut of meat that is easy to have on hand, simple to prepare for both small groups and crowds, and yet versatile enough to pair with multiple flavours.
Our choice? Pork tenderloin. Though delicious and tender, it also is neutral enough to pair wonderfully with numerous ingredients. It's also easy to cook. We like to rub it with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then roast for about 30 minutes. The entire process takes about 5 minutes hands-on time. Thinly sliced, the tenderloins can be paired with any number of sauces or toppings.
We've offered up three versions here — a tangy butternut squash pesto, a garlic-rich potato puree, and a glaze of cranberries and apple cider. Add some fresh bread and a salad and you've got a great holiday meal that you can repeat multiple times without ever feeling in a rut.
HOLIDAY ROASTED PORK TENDERLOIN (with three variations)
Start to finish: 45 minutes
Two 1-pound pork tenderloins
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 F.
Brush or rub olive oil over the surface of each pork tenderloin. Sprinkle each on all sides with salt and pepper. Place the tenderloins in a small roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes, or until the centre of the tenderloins reaches 145 F. Slice and serve topped with one of the variations below.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH PESTO
In a food processor, pulse 2 cups of peeled and cubed butternut squash until the pieces are very finely diced. Stir 1/4 cup olive oil into the squash, then spread the mixture on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400 F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender, but not mushy. Lift the foil off the pan and place the squash in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes. Once chilled, in a medium bowl stir together the squash, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1/4 cup grated manchego cheese, and salt and black pepper, to taste. Spoon over the pork and top with toasted almonds.
GARLIC POTATO PUREE
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup half-and-half with 3 garlic cloves and 2 bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a covered medium saucepan fitted with a steamer basket and filled with 1 inch of water, steam 2 pounds of peeled and cubed russet potatoes for 15 minutes, or until very tender. Pass the potatoes through a food mill or ricer and into a large bowl. Remove the bay leaves from the half-and-half and discard. In a blender, puree the half-and-half with the garlic until completely smooth. Gradually whisk the half-and-half into the potatoes, allowing it to be absorbed before adding more. Whisk in 6 tablespoons butter, then season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme, then serve alongside the pork tenderloin.
CRANBERRY CIDER GLAZE
In a small saucepan over medium-high, combine 2 cups apple cider with 1 cup fresh cranberries. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until thickened and reduced to 1 cup. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, in an oiled skillet over medium-high heat, cook several slices of prosciutto until crisp. When the pork tenderloin is cooked, serve covered with the glaze and garnished with shards of crisped prosciutto.