If you like lemon flavor, you are in for a treat with this lemony sauce with a twist. It’s made with Meyer Lemons, a hybrid cross between a Eureka Lemon and a Mandarin orange. Combining the Meyer Lemon’s complex flavor with butter, garlic, white wine and fresh rosemary, produces a versatile sauce great on pork, chicken, fish or just about anything you can imagine. Pork Tenderloin is an ideal cut of meat for anything from a quick weeknight dinner to an elegant meal. Here we prepare it with a smoky citrus-y rub. When you add the Meyer Lemon sauce to the roasted tenderloin, watch out…it’s Sweet Daddy D’s no-angst recipe for Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Meyer Lemon Sauce!
What is a Meyer Lemon?
Crossing a Eureka Lemon and a Mandarin Orange results in a smaller and more round lemon with smoother skin. It’s very juicy and slightly less acidic compared to a regular lemon with a subtle sweetness in the background. The pulp is a darker yellow and slightly sweeter and more floral with an orange-like aroma. Meyer lemons should be available from December through May, so if you don’t see them, ask your produce manager. Check out the Hints and Tips below for some interesting stuff about the Meyer lemon namesake.
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Here’s What You Need
Pork tenderloin is a lean, boneless cut of meat that is very tender when cooked properly and its mild flavor takes well to rubs and seasoning. This recipe layers on the flavor with a smoky rub, fresh Meyer Lemon slices and finishes it with this awesome sauce. You need about 2 ½ pounds of pork tenderloin, which is about the weight of the twin pack sold in most meat departments-so just get whatever size is available.
For the dry rub, you will need lemon-pepper (see Hints and Tips), smoked paprika, granulated garlic, kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. To help the rub adhere throughout the cooking process use a little olive oil, then tie the tenderloins together with butcher twine.
The flavor in the sauce is driven by Meyer Lemons of which we will use the juice, the zest and some slices. The rest of the sauce ingredients are butter, shallots, AP flour, dry white wine, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, fresh garlic and fresh rosemary.
Here’s What You Do
First…you have a beer. This is a simple, no-angst recipe if you do your mise en place. There are some ingredients to gather for the rub and the sauce, but that won’t take long. Prepping the tenderloin then zesting, juicing and slicing the Meyer lemons only take a few minutes. The shallots should be chopped fine but the garlic only needs to be peeled and smashed with the blade of your knife. Have a beer and read through the recipe, gather up the ingredients and have fun.
Prepare the tenderloins
Mix all ingredients for the rub together in a small bowl and set it aside. Trim any loose parts off tenderloin and remove any silver skin because it will hinder the rub from penetrating into the meat and can be a little chewy. Rub olive oil all over the tenderloins then apply the rub liberally on all sides, allow them to sit for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Each tenderloin has a thick end and a thin end, so align both halves lengthwise so the thin end of one is matched with the thick end of the other. Place Meyer lemon slices on top of the paired tenderloin and tie them together with the butcher twine, making sure the lemon slices are under the twine. Don’t fret if you can’t tie the pork like a graduate of the CIA…no-angst, remember? Just tie a decent knot that will hold. Brush some olive oil on the lemon slices and you’re ready to go.
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Sear tenderloin and transfer to the oven
Place a heavy bottom cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, add a little olive oil and sear the tied pork tenderloin on all sides, starting first with the lemon slices.
Once seared, turn the tenderloin so that the lemon slices are on top and add about ½ to 1 cup of dry white wine to the skillet. Place the skillet into the preheated 425-degree oven and roast the tenderloin until the internal temperature reads about 145 to 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. I use this Thermopen Classic from Thermoworks. (See Hints and Tips for a word about internal temperature). This should take about 30-35 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven, transfer the pork tenderloin to a cutting board to rest with a sheet of aluminum foil loosely tented on top. The pork tenderloin will continue to cook through carry-over heat, so the final internal temperature will be about 150 to 160 degrees when you are ready to slice it.
Make the Meyer Lemon Sauce
We’re going to use this same cast iron skillet to make the sauce, so if there are any burned morsels on the bottom from the roasting, just deglaze the cast iron pan with some water and wipe it out with a paper towel. Normally you want to incorporate any fond into the sauce, but not if it is burned. Over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. When foaming, add the shallots and crushed garlic and saute until the shallots are starting to soften, which should be about 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the flour and stir or whisk together until a light roux develops, then add the lemon zest, lemon slices and some kosher salt and ground black pepper.
Try to let the lemon slices get some direct contact with the bottom of the pan for a slight sear.
To the skillet add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, dry white wine, chicken stock and fresh rosemary, then increase the heat.
Give it a good stir and when it comes to a high simmer add the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter. Shake the pan back and forth while the butter melts and let it simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes while the sauce thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit while you slice the pork tenderloin.
Serve it up
Cut the twine, remove the lemon slices from the pork tenderloin and slice the pork tenderloin in about ½ inch slices on the bias. Remove the rosemary stem and lemon slices from the sauce and ladle over the sliced tenderloin. De-fricken-licious!
That’s it, all there is to it, simple as that.
Citrus in Louisiana
Due to climate conditions, Louisiana’s commercial citrus industry is primarily confined to the coastal parishes of Terrebonne, Lafourche, and primarily Plaquemines, which straddles both side of the Mississippi River at its mouth south of New Orleans. These parishes are especially susceptible to hurricanes, coastal erosion and a freeze every few years-three things that will significantly harm the citrus industry. Hurricane Katrina was particularly harmful to the southern parts of Plaquemines Parish due to flood waters infusing salt into the soil. Among a limited variety of commercially viable citrus are Navel Oranges and Satsumas, both sold through retail and direct sales outlets as well as roadside stands throughout Louisiana. To eat a Plaquemines Parish satsuma is a special thing.
Generally, lemons do not fair well in Louisiana’s climate with the exception of the Meyer Lemon, a hybrid lemon/mandarin cross which is citrus-y with a slightly sweeter, less acidic taste than regular lemons and hardy enough to withstand the Louisiana winters. Still not recommended for large-scale commercial production, they are available for commercial sales on a limited basis and in many family gardens in South Louisiana.
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Hints and Tips
- This special citrus originated in China in the early 1900s and is named for the U. S. Department of Agriculture adventurer who brought them, as well as many other “plants of economic value for the USDA” to the United States, Frank N Meyer. Among those other valuable plants was the soy bean. How odd to have a lemon named after you, but that doesn’t begin to tell the strange and interesting story of this adventurer and lover of plants who lived an extraordinary life and met a mysterious death.
- OK, I know this is called Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Meyer Lemon Sauce, but if you don’t have Meyer lemons you can substitute 3 tablespoons of regular lemon juice plus 1 tablespoon of mandarin (or any other sweet orange) juice. The zest and slices of regular lemons or oranges will work fine. But, you should try to find some Meyer Lemons when you can because they are just that good!
- When mixing the dry rub, try to use no-salt lemon-pepper mix. If you can’t find that, cut back or eliminate the extra salt.
- The ingredients for the rub are flexible. I’m going for something citrus-y to match the Meyer Lemons and smoky to give the tenderloin some depth. Feel free to change the ingredient and quantities to suit your taste.
- The National Pork Board recommends cooking pork tenderloins to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. This will have a little pink to the meat. I have found that an internal temperature of 155 to 160 degrees will still produce juicy meat with less pink. It’s a matter of personal preference. Just make sure to remove the tenderloin from the oven 5 to 10 degrees under your desired final temperature as the residual heat will continue to cook the tenderloin after it is removed from the oven. Tenting the foil, as opposed to wrapping it, will allow the cooking process to slow gently, rendering a juicy, perfectly cooked piece of pork.
- I do not recommend purchasing the pre-marinated pork tenderloins that are available in the meat department. First, they generally have a high sodium content and secondly, you want to be in control of the flavor profile of your dish.
- Is a pork tenderloin the same as a pork loin? Well, no. A pork loin (or pork roast as it is sometimes called) and the pork tenderloin are different cuts of the same pig. The pork loin comes from the back, is larger and can come with bones or boneless. It’s very lean with a fat cap and should be seared and then oven roasted or grilled over moderate heat. A tenderloin should be cooked quickly. It’s the muscle that runs along the backbone, is always boneless and much thinner than a loin. Tenderloins are usually sold whole while pork loins can be cut to order. Care needs to be taken with both cuts not to overcook them because they will both end up tough. The good news is that this Meyer Lemon Sauce is fantastic on either cut of pork.
- When heating up a cast iron skillet, be patient. Set the heat a little lower than you think you should and allow the cast iron to warm slowly as it distributed the heat. It’s much harder to cool down and overheated cast iron pan than it is to turn the heat up incrementally.
If you are interested in the recipe for just the Meyer Lemon Sauce, click here.
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Yeah You Right!
Roast Pork Tenderloin with Meyer Lemon Sauce
Here's What You Need
- 2 ½ pounds Pork Tenderloin trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Butcher twine
- ½ cup Dry White Wine
For the Rub
- 2 tablespoons Lemon pepper Salt-free
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the Sauce
- 6 tablespoons Butter in all
- 2 medium Shallots chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic smashed
- 2 tablespoons A/P flour
- 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
- To taste Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper
- 3 slices meyer lemon
- 4 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 cup Dry White Wine
- 1 cup Chicken Stock
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
Here's What You Do
- Mix all ingredients for the rub together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Trim any loose parts off tenderloin and remove the silver skin.
- Rub olive oil all over the tenderloins then apply the rub liberally on all sides. Allow the rubbed tenderloins to sit for 30 minutes.
- Align both halves of the tenderloin so the thin end of one is matched with the thick end of the other.
- Lay Meyer lemon slices on top of the paired tenderloin and tie them together with the butcher twine-make sure the lemon slices are under the twine.
- Brush some olive oil on the lemon slices.
- In a heavy bottom cast iron skillet, sear the tied pork tenderloin over medium high heat on all sides, starting with the lemon slices first.
- Once seared, add about ½ cup of dry white wine to the pan then transfer the cast iron pan into the 425 degree oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until the internal temperature reads about 145-150 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
- Remove from the oven and place the pork tenderloin on a cutting board to rest. Loosely tent aluminum foil over it and allow the pork to rest while you prepare the sauce.
- If necessary, deglaze the cast iron pan with some water to remove any burned morsels on the bottom and wipe out with a paper towel.
- Using the same cast iron skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over a medium heat, then add the shallots and crushed garlic.
- Saute until the shallots are starting to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the flour and stir or whisk together until a light roux develops.
- Add the lemon zest, lemon slices and some kosher salt and pepper. Let the lemon slices have direct contact with the bottom of the pan so they get a slight sear for a couple of minutes.
- Add in the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, wine, stock and fresh rosemary and increase the heat until starting to simmer.
- Stir well and bring to a simmer. Add the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter and shake the pan while that melts-simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes while the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat.
- Snip off the butcher twine and slice the pork tenderloin on the bias. Remove the lemon peels and rosemary from the sauce and spoon over the sliced pork.