An easy, healthy and mouthwatering dinner made for a 5-star restaurant, on your table in under 30 minutes!
When thinking about what to have for dinner tonight, I found myself at a complete loss. I wanted something creamy and comforting, spicy and flavorful, satisfying yet balanced, and perfectly saucy. I also didn’t have an abundance of ingredients as I’m about to leave town (home for a few weeks, then Italy!).
Thus this bacon-wrapped BBQ pork and polenta dish was born. And OH MY FLIPPIN GOSH WAS IT GOOD.
Wrapping the pork in turkey bacon (sparsely–you don’t even need much) not only adds smoky-salty flavor, crisp texture, and impressive visual appeal, but it works magic during the searing and roasting process. It buffers the lean pork from direct heat just enough so that the meat stays remarkably tender and juicy but still cooks quickly and offers that irresistible seared quality and aroma. And when I say tender, I’m talking no knife required for these thick slices.
Add to that a bed of creamy polenta with melty sharp cheddar, then spicy-sweet BBQ pan sauce with caramelized onions and toasty garlic, and finally a side of tender sautéed mushrooms and greens…and dinnertime just skyrocketed to a whole new level. You didn’t even have to pay for a five-star restaurant!
I really want to emphasize that, while this may look daunting, it is SO EASY and SO QUICK! No special tools or procedures required. We just wrap cut slices of bacon around pieces of tenderloin and cook them in one skillet, moving from stovetop to oven. Then we get to use that SAME SKILLET for the onion, sauce, and vegetables. Minimal hassle. Minimal clean-up. YES!
And I promise, the longest part of this recipe was the staring and picture-taking that occurred after it was ready. The polenta (I use Bob’s Red Mill) cooks in 10 minutes, and the pork just needs a couple minutes of searing, then 12-15 to roast! (Keep in mind that thicker cuts will need longer, but an average of about 13 minutes in the oven after searing usually works perfectly for me.)
- 1/4 tsp EVOO
- 7 oz raw pork tenderloin
- 1.5 slices turkey bacon
- sprinkle dried oregano
- ~2 Tbsp chicken broth
- 1.5 Tbsp BBQ sauce*
- ~2 Tbsp thinly sliced yellow onion
- 1/4 tsp minced garlic
- 60g | scant 1/2 cup uncooked yellow polenta**
- 1 cup water
- scant 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup 1% milk
- 1 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded
- 1/4 tsp EVOO
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 5 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 tsp minced garlic
- ~1 Tbsp chicken broth
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400º.
- Cut the tenderloin into 2 single-serving pieces, if desired. Slice the bacon in half lengthwise (to make thinner strips), and wrap around pork in a spiral-like fashion. (The entire surface need not be covered.) Sprinkle pork/bacon with dried oregano.
- Heat EVOO (more if skillet is not nonstick) in a medium skillet over medium heat; swirl to coat. Add bacon-wrapped tenderloin; sear about 1 minute, then gently turn and sear about 1 minute on all other sides (3-4 minutes total).
- Transfer entire skillet to oven. Roast 6-7 minutes; remove skillet with a potholder; turn meat; then return to oven 6-7 minutes longer. (Times may vary)***
- Meanwhile, make the polenta: Bring water and salt to a gentle boil in a small saucepan. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low and stir in polenta. Stir in milk. Keep at a very light simmer 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little more water if necessary; the polenta should be thick but creamy. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit another 5 minutes. Fold in shredded cheddar.
- When pork is done, set aside on a cutting board and rest at least 5 minutes before slicing. Into the same skillet over medium-low heat, add sliced onion and ~1 Tbsp chicken broth. Stir to scrape up browned bits. Cook onion 3-4 minutes, until tender and golden brown, adding additional broth as needed. Add garlic and cook another minute. Stir in BBQ sauce and more broth if needed to reach desired consistency. Remove from heat.
- Divide polenta between 2 plates. Slice pork width-wise and place over polenta. Spoon sauce over the top.
- For the optional side of mushrooms and spinach, heat 1/4 - 1/2 tsp EVOO in the same skillet over medium heat. (Leave the BBQ sauce residue in the pan!) Add sliced mushrooms and cook until browned and tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic. Add chicken broth and stir to scrape up browned bits. Add spinach and stir until wilted. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide between plates.
- Enjoy hot/warm.
- *I used Woodstock Original and highly recommend it! Stubb's Original is another favorite.
- **This recipe is based on Bob's Red Mill Polenta/Yellow Corn Grits. Make sure to check the instructions on the pack you're using and adjust the water or cooking time as needed.
- ***Cooking times may very greatly depending on thickness of meat. 12 minutes total oven time works well for a skinnier tenderloin. Check doneness with a meat thermometer or by pressing with the back of a fork--it should be somewhat firm and spring back to shape.