Pork tenderloin changes your feelings on hot sauce

By Scott Greenberg

Of all the foods in this wonderful food-universe of ours, hot sauce is the one that comes closest to being a religion.

There’s some stuff people have mild disagreements over, sure. You might have your yellow vs. brown mustard people, your Duke’s vs. Kewpie. But let the good ol’ abortion-hating-Lord help you if you decide to venture into the deep South and try to say that Crystal isn’t the only hot sauce on Earth (or Texas Pete or Frank’s, depending on how deep in the deep South you are). You will get absolutely crucified. When it comes to hot sauce, the right answer isn’t just the right answer, it’s the only answer. The end. That’s all, folks.

But there has to be something everyone can agree on, right? The hot sauce equivalent of that crunchy, non-denominational church down the road where they jam out on guitars and welcome everybody and all that? And you’d think that equivalent would be Sriracha. It’s delicious, everybody loves it, it’s popular as hell, and it’s different enough from American hot sauce that the BBQ jockeys won’t go apeshit when you try to squeeze a little on your morning omelette. Who could hate such a wonderful-sounding thing?

The answer is my Chinese roommates, who laughed in my face when I suggested the stuff. In their minds, the one and true god goes by the name of Sambal Cap Jempol. This, in their minds, is the only hot sauce that’s worthy of being put on some crispy french fries or in a bowl of Tom kha kai. It’s a bottle of goodness worth trudging though the cold and the snow and the exhaust fumes to Chicago  — a chili pepper-fueled pilgrimage to appease the gods of spice and flavor — once a month to stock up on.

Guess I should appease them, too. Here’s what you need:

– Two pork tenderloins (try to get it near 2 1/2 pounds)

– 2 teaspoons salt

– 1 teaspoon finely-ground coffee grounds

– 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

– 1 teaspoon cumin

– 1 teaspoon cinnamon

– 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

– 1/4 cup Sambal Cap Jempol (you can use Sriracha if you can’t find it, but like I said, the flavor gods will be angry)

Here’s what you do:

First, mix together the dry stuff: salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon and coffee grounds. Cover the tenderloins with that good stuff, and stick them in a bag for a few hours in the fridge. If you can stand to wait overnight, do that instead. The longer you can marinate it, the better. Because, you know, that’s how the hell marinating things works.

Once the pork’s done marinating, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat up some olive oil in a big skillet on medium high, and throw the pork in and brown it on both sides. It should take about four minutes, but just keep an eye on it until it turns brown.

Next, stir together the brown sugar and Sambal. It’s gonna be really clumpy, but just work it around with a wooden spoon until it’s mixed together.

Slather the Sambal mixture on top of the pork. Again, it’s hard to work with, but if you use your hands you should be able to get the pork decently covered. It’s all gonna melt and get all delicious anyway in the oven, so don’t worry about turning this into a beauty pageant. Just make sure you get the pork covered as best you can.

Put the pork on the middle rack of your oven for 20 to 25 minutes. You want a meat thermometer stuck diagonally (yes, it’s important) into the middle of the pork to read about 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

After it’s done cooking, let the pork rest for 10 minutes. It sounds like a lot, but the pork’s gonna keep cooking while it rests, so it won’t get cold or anything. Also, we’ve been over this already, but I’ll say it again: cutting meat before it rests = tons of lost juices. And lost juices = lost flavor.

Slice the pork up on the diagonal, stick it on a plate, and serve with some kind of vegetable or something. Otherwise you’re just eating a plate full of meat. That’s kind of ridiculous, but I probably won’t judge you for it.

Beats always make a good side dish, though. This week it’s a classic De La Soul with “Ego Trippin’ (Part 2)”

So this ended up being pretty damn good, but I’m still holding to my Sriracha guns. Like I said up there, hot sauce is sacred, and you’re as unlikely to throw your convictions out the window when someone pours something new on your plate as a devout Buddhist is after a Jesuit drops by for a sermon.

Pray to your gods, people.