Hope you enjoy celebrating the day with a nice cerveza or margarita, and of course some good Mexican food. And if you don't want to brave the drunken college students at your local Mexican restaurant, just stay home and cook!
Since Cinco de Mayo is a celebration, I won't let you get away with making ground beef tacos with seasoning mix. So even though this recipe is a little more in-depth than your normal Thursday night dinner, it definitely will be tasty and impressive.
Spicy Pork Tenderloin with Jalapeno-Cilantro Sauce
I make all this stuff up, don't you expect that by now?
Grab a pork tenderloin. I used two because Costco packages them in pairs and it's impossible to unfreeze just one of them since they're buddies in the vacuum-sealed package. Give them a very liberal rub down with the following spices:
- Dry chipotle powder (very, very spicy, so be careful if you don't like heat!)
- Garlic powder
- Ancho chile powder (a sweet, smoky chile powder, not spicy)
- Sweet smoked paprika
- White or black pepper
If you don't have these exact spices, no worries. Just find something in your cabinet that matches the flavor profiles we're going for here. The chipotle powder brings the heat, so if you don't have it, find something that can substitute -- maybe some cayenne. Ancho chile powder brings a sweet, smoky heat. Smoked paprika brings even more smokiness. Basically, look in your cabinet and find spicy, smoky, and sweet flavors!
There is only one spice that is an absolute must in Mexican cooking: cumin. Cumin is the main flavor we all recognize from those taco mix packets, as well as throughout so many Mexican dishes. Cumin is also essential in Indian cooking, so if this spice is not already in your spice cabinet, I highly recommend you add it, ASAP!
Mix the spices and heavily coat the tenderloins. Stick them in the fridge for about an hour so they can blend and seep into the meat.
Now, on to the jalapeno-cilantro sauce!
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 3-5 fresh jalapenos
- 1/2 red onion
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs water
- A pinch of salt, pepper, and smoked paprika (optional)
For this sauce, you'll need some sort of open flame. A gas stove works great, but feel free to head outside to the grill if the weather is nice!
Using tongs, roast the jalapenos until they are blackened all over.
You want all of the skin completely blackened. Once it's fully roasted, put it in a bowl and cover immediately with plastic wrap. Do this for all of the jalapenos until they are all roasted and in the bowl together.
The reason for covering the peppers in a bowl is so that the warm steam permeates the scorched skin and softens it. Let them sit in the bowl for about 10 minutes.
Then, uncover and scrape the blackened skin off with a spoon or other utensil. The more blackened they are, the easier it will be to scrape off the skin.
Now you're left with a soft, skinless, roasted pepper!
Skin all the peppers this way. Then cut them into large pieces, and be sure to remove the seeds and membrane. The seeds and membrane harbor the most heat, and unless you want to burn your mouth off with this sauce, it's best to leave them out.
Put the roasted jalapenos and all other ingredients together in a food processor.
If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water and/or oil.
Pour it all into a container and place it in the fridge to let the flavors meld.
When you're ready to start cooking, pull the pork and sauce out of the fridge approximately 30 minutes before grilling. Allowing the meat to warm up a little will keep it from seizing up and getting tough.
When the grill is hot, cook the pork tenderloins. It's important to note that although it's often assumed that pork has to be cooked completely through, in fact it's best cooked with a slight amount of pink in the center. I'm not talking rare or even medium rare, more like medium well. If you're a meat thermometer fan, cook it to around 150 degrees. Once it's ready, bring it in and cover with foil for approximately ten minutes.
Slice the pork and top with the jalapeno-cilantro sauce. Serve alongside your favorite Mexican sides such as some grilled veggies (seasoned with cumin, salt, and pepper) and Mexican rice.