Brooks’ Pork Tenderloin with an Amazing Marinade

The first time I tasted my friend Brooks’s kickass grilled pork tenderloin was at a funeral reception. Good friend that Brooks is to so many, she showed up at the reception with a platterful of sliced, perfectly cooked and beautifully seasoned grilled pork tenderloins. A few days later, I called her for the recipe. I wrote the list of ingredients down on a piece of scrap paper and then promptly misplaced it. That was ten years ago, 1/18/06. I know this because I wrote the date on the piece of scrap paper. You would think someone who is meticulous enough to date scrap paper would have a decent method for saving it.

I thought of Brooks’s juicy and flavorful recipe every time I cooked pork using my pathetic but quick get-some-food-on-the-table-after-driving-boys-around-all-afternoon method of throwing two pork tenderloins into a bag with a salty steak marinade and roasting them at 400º until they were very well-done. In fact, the pork was so salty and dry; I quit making pork tenderloins all together for years. That was until Brooks’s recipe resurfaced a few weeks ago and I learned more about how to cook delicious pork tenderloins to the right temperature.


Let’s talk about how pork came to be the dry, well-done other white meat and not the juicy, tender pink meat we enjoy now.

Trichinosis; It’s no longer a health epidemic 

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. My mother and her mother before her cooked pork until it was well-done. They did so because of the prevailing fear of an illness known as Trichinellosis, aka Trichinosis, which came from the ingestion of parasitic roundworms known as Trichinella spiralis. Trichinae were found most commonly in the muscle tissue of pigs and wild game. The U.S. Public Health Service started counting incidents of Trichinellosis in the mid-1940s, around the time my mother was coming of age. At the time, 400-500 cases were reported each year, nationally. Because of my mother and grandmother’s respect for and fear of this malady, I knew the word Trichinosis as a ten-year-old. It translated into a disease that could surely kill you dead if you did not cook pork until it was well-done, the only way to destroy the heavily encapsulated parasitic worms.

This all begs the question, Where were pigs picking up this parasite?  The answer was garbage. In the old days, many pigs were fed raw garbage on pig farms. In the 50s and 60s, food laws changed, and the government said the garbage needed to be cooked, and BTW, no more feeding animal carcasses to pigs, raw or cooked. New farm hygiene protocols were also established and rodents, like rats and raccoons, were no longer allowed to have access to the pig pen.

Along with tighter control over pig farm hygiene, the government embarked on a massive publicity campaign instructing Americans to cook pork until it was well-done. The message stuck. Interestingly, in 1987, another ad campaign came along, this time from the National Pork Board, to pitch pork as a white meat alternative to chicken and turkey,  “Pork. The other white meat.” That slogan only served to reinforce the concept of cooking pork until it was white and well-done.

Technique Time: Heat Transfer

So, if you don’t need to overcook pork anymore, to what internal temperature should you cook it to get a moist, light pink center? The U.S.D.A says a minimum of 145º for all pork roasts and 160º for ground pork and patties. When using a meat thermometer, it should always be inserted into the thickest part of the loin without touching any bones. Finally, let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. During this time the internal temperature of the meat will rise by about five degrees and finish cooking the meat to 150º. Theoretically, you could cook the meat to 140º and let it finish off to 145º, but I tried that and it was too pink and chewy.

This five-degree temperature increase that happens when cooked meat rests is due to the rules of heat transfer. The temperature on the surface of the meat when you pull it out of the oven is the same as the inside of the oven, in this case, 400º. If the room temperature is 70º, the heat on the surface of the pork has to go somewhere for the meat’s temperature to equilibrate with the room temperature. Some of that heat is released into the room, and some goes back into the center of the meat, raising its internal temperature to 150º.

Back to the recipe

When I finally got the chance to make Brooks’s marinade recipe last month, a full ten years later, it wasn’t as kick-assy as I remembered. I think I had mismeasured on the side of timidity when it came to gauging how much was a glug of this or a dollop of that  (Brooks’s measurement terms!). I called Brooks for clarification and to ask if I could blog the recipe. The conversation started like this, “Brooks, do you remember making pork tenderloins for Buck’s mother’s funeral TEN years ago? [Yes.] Are you still making them the same way?” [Yes.] To my surprise and amusement, she told me her newly-wed son Alex had just called her for the very same recipe, so the ingredients were fresh on her mind. That, Dear Reader, is what keeper-recipes and motherful moments in cooking are all about.

Yield: 1¼ cups marinade good for 2-3 pounds of meat or two logs



¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup bourbon or rye
2  teaspoons “Tamari” Soy Sauce (a refined, more delicate, gluten-free soy)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 slightly heaping tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon Beau Monde Seasoning (a savory blend of salt and spices made by Spice Islands)
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
10 peppercorns
Pinch of crushed red pepper
¼ cup brown sugar
5-8 large garlic cloves, sliced
5-6 stems fresh thyme, coarsely chopped (I use lemon thyme)
Zest and juice of one lemon
A dollop of cognac (optional)
2-3 pounds (2 logs) pork tenderloin, rinsed and patted dry


Remove pork tenderloins from the package. Rinse under cold water and pat dry.

Into a two cup liquid measure, add olive oil to the ¼ cup mark, then add bourbon to the ½ cup mark, and then all the other ingredients: Tamari, Worcestershire, Dijon, Beau Monde, red and black peppers, peppercorns, brown sugar, garlic, the zest and juice of one lemon, and the thyme. Do not add salt. There is plenty of salt in the Tamari, Worcestershire, Dijon, and Beau Monde. Stir marinade with a fork, being sure to mix in the brown sugar that settles to the bottom.


Mix pork and marinade together and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for eight hours or overnight. Turn it over and massage it every few hours.


Cook in a preheated 400º oven, or on the grill at the same temperature. Cook ten minutes on one side and turn over. Cook for another ten minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers at least 145º. Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Our favorite degree of doneness was 148º with a rise to 154º on the meat thermometer.

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Even at 154º, the meat is still pink.


If you would like a saltier more robust pork tenderloin, increase the Tamari and Worcestershire Sauce to 1 tablespoon of each. My sons liked it that way, but I thought the saltiness was overpowering.


Related Posts
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts
Mom’s Marinated and Grilled Lamb
Mom’s Roasted Lamb with Herb and Goat Cheese Topping
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Brooks’s Pork Tenderloin Marinade


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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers

Dear Doris’s Italian Market and Bakery,

Please open a store in Nashville so I can get delicious homemade Italian sausage, sweet or spicy, with or without fennel, veal sausages, meatloaf mix and braciole-cut beef when ever I want them.

And, please send Lester and his delightful butcher friends from the Boca Raton store, to the opening. They know stuff.

Whenever I go to Florida to visit my family, I always make a trip to Doris’s and to Joseph’s Classic MarketAt Joseph’s, I buy the best sfogliatelle I’ve ever tasted

and the best cannolis, with real cannoli cream.

At Doris’s, I buy sausages galore: pork, veal and chicken, freeze them, pack them in my suitcase, and fly them home with us to Nashville. My husband goes with me to Doris’s because the store is so much fun to browse in, but he starts to shake his head when I start filling up the cart with pounds and pounds of sausages. Always the more practical one in the family, he wonders how I plan to get it all home. “Don’t worry honey,” I say, “I always find a way.”

This year, because I was working on a recipe for a Portuguese stew, my sweet husband searched out and found fresh Portuguese linguica at Boca Brazil Supermercado. It’s one of the many reasons he is my Valentine and no other.

I, meanwhile, am my grandfather Carl’s granddaughter — when he went to Sicily to visit relatives, ages ago, he brought home cured salami hidden from Customs inspectors in the toecap of a shoe that was packed in his suitcase. I thought that was strange as a child, but I totally get it, now.

A few weeks ago, when I was in Florida, Mom’s sister Rachelle made sausage and peppers for dinner on our first night in town. It’s her husband Steve’s favorite meal from childhood. Was it ever good! So good, we had to have a repeat performance later in the week so I could blog it.

Part of the fun of making this dish was all of us going grocery shopping together to get the ingredients. As you can see, this recipe isn’t complicated.

Because we didn’t live in a big city, with Italian markets, while growing up, my mother often bought pre-packaged Premio Italian Sweet Sausages. They are great in meat sauce and also excellent grilled. In Nashville, you can buy the Premio brand at Costco, five pounds for $12.00. The inhouse-made sausages at Doris’s are $3.50 a pound.

Yield: Serves 6

2½ pounds Italian sweet sausage (8 links)
8 cups sliced sweet bell peppers (5 peppers)
5 cups sliced onions (3 medium)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt

Mise en Place:


This is truly the easiest recipe on the blog.

Prep veggies. Here’s Rachelle, favorite great-aunt to my children, chopping veggies.
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Prep sausages: cut apart links.

You’ll need two frying pans. One for the peppers and onions and one for the sausages.

Sauté the onions, garlic pepper and salt in olive oil over medium-high heat until translucent and soft, about ten minutes.

Add the peppers. Continue to sauté the peppers and onions over medium-high heat until the peppers start to soften, and then let them simmer over low heat while you cook the sausages.

Sauté the sausages in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a different pan.

Brown on all sides over medium-high heat.
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Slit sausages to allow heat to get inside. Cover pan and let simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.

Add sausages to peppers and onions. Be sure to tap off as much fat as possible from the sausages before you add them to the peppers and onions.
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Saute together for 5-10 minutes. It will look like this when it is done.

Can be served as is, or over pasta, or in a hoagie. It works for Whole30 if you skip the bread and pasta and serve it with a green salad.

Two family photos of Rachelle, just for fun:
Rachelle, my grandmother Marion, and my brother Chris. Rachelle and Grandma are visiting us in Baltimore and by the looks of their hair, they’ve been to Bridget’s Beauty Shoppe.
rachelle marion chris

This is a photo of Rachelle in Sicily with Granddaddy Carl and Grandma’s cousins Marianina and Salvatore. Rachelle was in high school at the time.


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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.


Auntie’s Italian Fried Cauliflower

“Granddaddy ate them by the bucketful,” said his daughter, Rachelle.  I know for a fact that my Mom’s cousins, Mary Lou, Angela, Phil, Jeannie, and Paula will all be making them on Christmas Eve this year. I have good memories of going to my Auntie Terry’s house on holidays and eating them.  I’m talking about fried cauliflower. We are a family that loves fried cauliflower and fried celery, broccoli, and carduna, if we are lucky enough to source it.


This is truly a family favorite. When my children gush over something I’ve made, as they do over fried cauliflower, and then ask me how to make it, I know it is time to blog it. I want the next generation of adults to learn the family recipes.


Here is my grandmother’s recipe as given to me by Mom’s sister, Auntie Terry.

Yield: 18 Fried Cauliflower Patties

1 head cauliflower
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¼ cup chopped parsley (or 2 tablespoons each, parsley and basil)
3/4 cup (3½ ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ olive oil mixed with ½ canola oil for frying
Lemon slices (optional)

Mise en Place:

Prep Cauliflower for Cooking:

Cut cauliflower into half-inch slices. Cut out the center stem. This will leave you with many small, sliced florets
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Blanch Cauliflower:
Fill a medium-large pot with 3 quarts of hot water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Bring to a boil. Add florets and bring to a rolling boil. Allow to boil vigorously for 1½ minutes.

Remove florets from heat and drain through a colander. Leave florets in the colander and cover. Allow to steam, covered, for at least five minutes. The beauty of this method of cooking the florets is they will be uniformly cooked and not mushy or waterlogged.

Prepare Egg Batter:
First, add eggs to a mixing bowl and beat. Add everything else but the flour and mix for about 30 seconds.

Add flour and mix for about 15 seconds more. The reason to add the flour last is you don’t want to “awaken” the flour’s gluten by mixing it too much.

Add cooked and cooled cauliflower to the egg mixture and gently stir with a spatula until the cauliflower is well coated.

Fill a 12-inch sauté pan with about one cup of olive oil. You will be sautéing the vegetables, not deep-frying them. Set the heating temperature to medium. Let oil heat for a few minutes. Do not let the oil get smoking hot.

How to Test for Correct Oil Temperature
The best way to test if the oil is hot enough is to dribble batter into it. If the batter sizzles, the oil is hot enough. If the batter immediately turns brown, it is too hot. In that case, remove the pan from heat and let the oil cool down some.
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If the oil is too hot, the interior of the patties will remain doughy while the exterior turns crisp. If the temperature isn’t hot enough, the batter will become like a sponge, sop up the oil, and the patties will taste bland. Plan on the patties cooking for a total of four to five minutes.
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Remove cauliflower from pan with a slotted spoon. I tap the spoon against the inside edge of the pan to release as much oil as possible. Drain cauliflower on paper towels. This recipe makes three batches of six cauliflower patties.

Serve hot, warm or cold. They are amazing at any temperature. When they are still warm, I like to squeeze lemon juice on each one before I eat it. I think it catapults the flavor to another level of deliciousness!

My relatives, who have made these for a lifetime have assured me there will come a time when I will be able to make the batter without measuring it, as they do. Paula gave me the best advice about the consistency of the batter: “the batter should be thick enough to coat the cauliflower and still allow it to run off slowly like pancake batter would.” She also starts off each batch by frying a little of the batter (without cauliflower) to taste test if she’s gotten the batter’s seasonings correct since she makes her batter with Bisquick and without measuring the ingredients.

A photo of my grandparents. Grandma made all of her aprons.

Hollywood fl ? date

Other yummy veggies:
Roasted Ratatouille
Cauliflower Three Ways: Roasted, Blanched and Mashed
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Asparagus and Chicken


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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful and Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese

About ten years ago, we hosted a Croatian high school student for a month at our home in Nashville. His name was Bruno. The following summer, his family invited us to their summer home on the island of Brac, one of the Dalmatian Islands on the Adriatic coast. That vacation was one of the best trips of our lives.


Bruno’s parents, Lilijana and Mario, fixed all of our meals using local produce and products found on the island. The honey came from the beehives of a friend, the red wine came from a vat at a cousin’s house, the olive oil was pressed at another cousin’s home, even the fresh tuna on the Fourth of July came from a friend at the pier. It was all so marvelous.

Lily was a fabulous cook. She probably used fifteen types of ingredients to make all of our meals. Her cooking was simple, fresh, and delicious. Some afternoons, she would mix equal parts of sheep milk feta and goat cheese with olive oil, garlic, and herbs and serve it with crusty bread as an appetizer. We devoured it. We dubbed it “Croatian Cheese.” The first thing I did when I returned home was try to recreate it.

Approximately equal amounts of sheep (the feta) and goat milk cheeses — the packages I used had 1 pound of feta and 10 ounces of goat cheese
A few sprigs each of rosemary, basil, and parsley
*3 small cloves of freshly chopped garlic
1 cup extra virgin, first cold pressed, olive oil

Prepare the aromatics: snip the leaves and peel the garlic.


I like to make this in a food processor for convenience. Refrigerate for a few hours to give the flavors time to meld. Serve cold.

Pulse garlic cloves first*. Add herbs and pulse. Add cheeses and pulse. Finally, add olive oil and pulse briefly.

*Start with the smaller amount of garlic. Uncooked garlic is much stronger in flavor than cooked.

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And you are done. Fair warning: it’s garlic-y!

Below is a photo of my favorite memory of Croatia — our two families went together on an overnight sailing trip.

croatia sail dragoandrewjessetylerbruno

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.