Do you ever have so much of a craving for something that you build a meal around it? I usually start with the main dish and work out from there. But, this past weekend, RF and I picked up a beautiful pair of yellow squash that had me dreaming of the squash casserole of my childhood. The biggest challenge was figuring out the recipe!
After scouring recipe sites and Pinterest, I finally settled on Add a Pinch. Robyn is a 7th generation Southerner, so I had a lot of faith that her Southern Squash Casserole would rival my grandmother’s. Now, to build a meal around it.
We tend to get in a bit of a chicken rut at our house, especially during summer grilling season. It doesn’t require a lot of prep, or skill to get it right…but then, neither does pork tenderloin. It can also be quickly grilled, but since we’ve had such poor air quality lately from the many Washington wildfires, I opted for roasting instead.
Before starting work on my casserole, I put the tenderloin in a Ziploc and added a few glugs, scoops, and dashes of the following:
I always start marinades just like salad dressing, with a couple of glugs of olive oil to bind it all together. Then, similar amounts of an acid – for meats, usually balsamic or Worcestershire. I like the punch of a scoop of dijon. Spicier or sweeter mustards work well too, or you can leave it out altogether. A few dashes of salt and pepper, of course; more of less of each, depending on your taste preferences. If you have fresh herbs, by all means, but my favorite secret ingredient to tie everything together is Herbes de Provence: the perfect mix of thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil, fennel, sage, and lavender.
I never measure, but if that makes you nervous, the proportions are in the general realm of 3T oil, 2T acid, 1T mustard, 2t herbs, 1t pepper, 1/2t salt. There many
opinions recipes online. I love using sealable bags because I just close it up, squish everything around the meat, then refrigerate right in the bag while getting to work on the casserole.
I’m not one to shy away from putting my own personal touch on a recipe, but I didn’t veer far from the original on this one. I only had 2 squash, and there are only 2 of us, so I went ahead and halved the recipe. I also substituted parmesan for the cheddar. Shockingly, cheddar sounded a bit too rich to me; where as parmesan didn’t? I can’t explain. It just sounded good. And, of course, I can’t eat Ritz crackers. I’ve had grand plans for awhile now of making my own gluten-free bread crumbs from some leftover bread ends I’ve been storing in the freezer. Alas, after a busy day, it seemed quicker and easier to give Glutino crackers a try. Good choice.
The chopped squash was a little more than the 2 cups a truly halved recipe would have called for. Of course, how do you truly measure things that leave so much space around them? Does this bother you too? RF thinks that all recipes should be based on weight, but I don’t have a kitchen scale, so that wouldn’t have really helped either. I’m pretty sure that, “Eh, that looks about right…” is one of RF’s least favorite measurements, but I simply rounded up each of the ingredients until it looked like they matched.
I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty details of this recipe; I’m sure you already know what cracking/beating an egg and chopping/sautéing an onion looks like. It’s all quite straightforward. Though, I will say that RF got the “pleasing to his inner 5-year-old” task of crushing the crackers in Ziploc for me. Once assembled, into the toaster oven it went. I probably haven’t yet mentioned how much I love a toaster oven. For a couple, it’s so much more efficient than firing up the big oven. Though, in this case, the big oven is reserved for the main dish and it’s pure convenience in a small house to have this as our second oven space.
Despite the adaptations, the cooking time was spot on at 45 minutes. It also happened to be the perfect amount of time to take a little break to catch up on emails then get the tenderloin going.
There’s lot of advice out there about how to roast a tenderloin. My preference is to heat the pan in the oven as it warms to 450 degrees. Then, roast 10 minutes on one side, flip and roast another 10 minutes on the other, or until the meat thermometer reaches 145′. My meat thermometer tells me that pork is rare at 160′ and well-done at 170′, but most recipes recommend 140-145′. Confusing? Yes. My solution? Cook to 145′, cover with foil, let rest. The extra temperature it gains while resting works out to juicy perfection. If you are worried about it being too rare, wait a little longer to remove it from the oven. Just don’t want until 170′, unless you are intentionally cooking a chew toy for your dog.
Fresh meals are important to me, but so are time-saving tips wherever possible. This sautéed spinach is one of my favorites. I spring for pre-washed spinach and always keep a little jar of chopped garlic in the fridge.
I’m sure this seems super lazy to many of you. But, I can’t stand gritty sand in my greens, and I can’t ever seem to dry the leaves well enough to keep them from getting overly steamed and wilty in the pan. Plus, this bucket of spinach makes the perfect amount for two of us. Garlic tends to sprout on me when I don’t use it all quickly enough. And, chopping just adds undue time to prep when I can quickly spoon out a clove when I need it. Feel free to judge. I’m not budging on this one.
While the tenderloin rests and the casserole sets, I melt a little butter, add the garlic to the pan and warm to fragrant, and in goes the spinach. It cooks in a flash, so I don’t typically start it until everything else is pretty well ready to go.
Time to slice…
…and serve it up!
Voilà! Roasted pork tenderloin with sautéed spinach and a delicious Southern Summer Squash Casserole. And, the casserole was exactly what I was hoping it would be. Mmm…azing!