Spice-Rubbed Fillet of Pork with Roasted Peppers and Prickly Pear/Ancho Gastrique

Whole, pastured pork tenderloin from Richardson Farms is rubbed in a mixture of cumin, garlic, oregano, paprika, sea salt and black pepper, then tightly wrapped and chilled overnight before being sliced into thick fillets.  Grilled over a wood fire then served on rounds of fried polenta with roasted peppers and a gastrique of prickly pear cactus with charred onions and ancho chiles..

Spice-Rubbed Fillet of Pork with Roasted Peppers and Prickly Pear/Ancho Gastrique

For the Pork  (adjust spices to suit your own taste)

1 whole pork tenderloin, trimmed, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon granulated organic garlic
1 teaspoon granulated organic onion
2 teaspoon2 Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry comal over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool, then combine all spices together in a spice grinder and process into a slightly coarse powder.

Pat the tenderloin completely dry, then roll in the spice mixture until all surfaces are evenly coated.  Wrap the tenderloin tightly and refrigerate overnight.

For the Gastrique

juice of 3 fresh cactus fruits
1 ancho chile, stemmed, seeded, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, charred and slivered
3 tablespoons raw cider vinegar
1/4 cup sustainable, organic palm sugar
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Harvest a few small prickly pear cactus fruits, then roll them around on the ground to knock off the glochids (clusters of small, sharp spines).  Rinse the fruit clean, chop coarsely then place in an inch or so of simmering water for ten minutes.  Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then mash the fruit with a potato masher.

Line a sieve with a clean kitchen towel and set over a bowl.  Pour in the cooked fruit and water and allow to drain through.  Discard the pulp and pour the liquid into a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and cook until reduced in volume by about a third.  Set aside.

Combine water and sugar in a heavy saucepan over high heat, stirring constantly until caramelized.  Reduce heat to a simmer and whisk in the vinegar to form a sauce of pourable consistency. Reduce again until thick, then whisk in the cactus fruit juice.  Allow to reduce one last time, then add charred onion and chopped ancho.  Season to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and keep warm until ready to serve.

To Prepare

Slice pork tenderloin horizontally into 4 4-ounce fillets.  Grill fillets over a wood fire until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees (about 4 minutes per side) then transfer to a plate to rest for a full 5 minutes (roast some stemmed and  split grilling peppers while you’re waiting).

Arrange fried polenta on a serving plate, placing a grilled fillet on top of each disc.   Garnish with sliced grilled peppers and spoon gastrique over the top. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

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