John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Tuscan Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

One of the leanest, most tender cuts of meat is the pork tenderloin. Today, the boy of wine is going to share a great dish with you featuring the little piggy’s tenderloin. I will also recommend a pair of absolutely perfect wines for this dish!

But first, a few thoughts on cooking pork.

As delicious as roasted pork tenderloin can be, it can also be a boring dish unless you spark it up with a good dose of seasoning, stuffing, or saucing. The recipe below will take care of this problem. However, the most common problem associated with preparing this delicate cut of meat is over cooking.

Most of us have been taught by our mothers and grandmothers that you must always cook pork until the center of the meat is completely devoid of any color. Why? Well, when mom and/or ma-ma were growing up, trichinosis, a disease contracted by eating under cooked pork, was a serious problem.

The solution was to cook the meat until it was DONE – in other words until it was stiff, dry and had the flavor and texture of leather. When I was growing up, fried pork chops could have been used as body armor.

Thankfully, times have changed. Now the pork industry is highly regulated and trichinosis is almost unheard of except in third world countries. The National Pork Board suggests cooking the tenderloin to a final internal temperature of 160 degrees.

You will need an instant read thermometer, keeping in mind that you can cook the pork to about 155 degrees and remove it from the heat allowing it to sit for about 10 minutes. While resting, the temperature of the pork will continue to increase several degrees.

However, I prefer to cook the tenderloin to about 145 degrees F and let it rest for several minutes before slicing and serving. This is a perfectly safe temperature and, while the meat may have a slight pink color in its center, the pork will be much juicer.

Okay, so let’s get to it.

Tuscan Stuffed Pork TenderloinWill feed six adults 2 one-half pound pork tenderloins 2 Italian sausage links 1 eight-ounce box of frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed dry) 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella or smoked provolone 1 carrot sliced into two-inch long matchsticks 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs 1 egg 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic 1 Small onion diced 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary stripped and chopped (about one tablespoon) 2 ounces of fresh lemon juice 4 ounces extra virgin olive oil 2 ounces of red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper 1 teaspoon of kosher salt

Make a marinade of three ounces of extra virgin olive oil, two ounces of lemon juice and red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of smoked paprika, a teaspoon of garlic and half a teaspoon of kosher salt.

Cut the tenderloins lengthwise (leaving one half inch on either end) and deep enough to make a pocket without cutting all the way through. Rub inside and out with fresh ground black pepper and rosemary.

Place the meat along with the marinade into a gallon plastic bag and put in the refrigerator for a minimum of four hours or up to 12 hours.

Roast or microwave the Italian sausage links, remove the skins and chop finely.

For the stuffing, sauté onions carrot matchsticks and spinach in one-ounce of olive oil and allow the mixture to cool. Stir in the egg, cheese and sausage and add the breadcrumbs.

Place the stuffing into the pork tenderloin and either tie with butcher’s string or use toothpicks to close the opening.

Roast the tenderloins in the oven at 400 degrees (or on a grill) for about 20 minutes or until the inside temperature reaches 145 F - or more if you desire.

Wait about 10 minutes, remove the string or toothpicks, slice into half-inch circles and serve with cheesy polenta or orzo.

The delicate and savory flavors in this Tuscan Stuffed Tenderloin marry incredibly well with sangiovese. My suggestions are the 2006 Bodega Benegas Sangiovese from Argentina ($23) or the 2006 Monte Antico from Tuscany which is a blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot ($14).

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