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Published January 15, 2013, 11:40 PM

Home with the Lost Italian: Pork gets tropical treatment in dish

Before opening Sarello’s 12 years ago, we spent nearly the entire decade of the 1990s working as hotel officers aboard luxury and expedition cruise ships.

By: Tony and Sarah Nasello, INFORUM

Before opening Sarello’s 12 years ago, we spent nearly the entire decade of the 1990s working as hotel officers aboard luxury and expedition cruise ships.

During this time, we were lucky enough to be somewhere beautiful nearly every day, and the weather was rarely inclement. Travel, sunshine and exotic locations were a routine part of our life.

But with a business to run and a child to raise, we find ourselves firmly rooted in Fargo these days. While we’re grateful for the opportunities we have here at home, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that we sometimes miss those days at sea, especially during winter.

We have an arsenal of recipes that have been created as a direct result of our regionally imposed vitamin D deficiency, and they never fail to lift our spirits or bring a little sunshine into our lives. This week’s recipe for Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin is no exception.

We featured this dish at a Caribbean-themed dinner party we held on a cold January night a couple of years ago at Sarello’s, and it’s become a favorite in our family ever since. We visited Jamaica numerous times in our careers, where roadside jerk stands are ever-present, each one offering their own unique version of Jamaican Jerk specialties.

Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica, which involves cooking pork or chicken in a dry rub or wet marinade with a mixture of hot spices known as Jamaican Jerk Spice. While the methods of preparation vary widely, most experts agree that there are three key ingredients to an authentic Jamaican jerk recipe: allspice, thyme and the super-hot Scotch Bonnet pepper.

Jamaican jerk is distinctive in its flavor, with various spices blending together to create a dish both savory and sweet. Traditionally, a Jamaican jerk sauce has a strong spicy kick, but for our purposes we’ve adapted this recipe to make it more family friendly by substituting Sambal chili paste for the Scotch Bonnet pepper. This change reduces the heat quite a bit and provides a welcome acidity to the mix, thus making the recipe better suited for a wide variety of people.

We start with a whole pork tenderloin, which we cut into half-inch pieces. We then use the scaloppine technique to pound the pork into tender cutlets about a quarter-inch in thickness.

The cutlets are marinated for a minimum of two hours or overnight if possible.

The last step is to grill the meat, and in the winter months, we find a grill pan on our stovetop works just fine. If you don’t have a grill pan, you can sauté the cutlets in a frying pan with a little olive oil for about 5 minutes on each side.

Arrange the cutlets on a platter and cover with a generous portion of Pineapple Salsa just before serving. Pineapple is in season, and this salsa showcases its tart and tangy sweetness, while providing a welcome burst of tropical sunshine to the dish. The salsa can be made two to three days in advance, adds brilliant color to the plate, and offers a great contrast to the hot, smoky spice of the Jamaican jerk.

Serve this dish accompanied by Bob Marley tunes, a bottle of Red Stripe beer or a Jamaican-rum piña colada, and enjoy a trip to Jamaica without even leaving your home.

Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon Sambal chili paste

1 tablespoon dried thyme flakes

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ cup diced yellow onion - scallions (green onions) may also be used

1 whole pork tenderloin, cut into ½-inch cutlets and pounded Scaloppine style to approx. ¼-inch thickness

Directions

Combine all ingredients except pork and mix thoroughly. Place the cutlets in a large baking dish and coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or overnight if possible.

To Cook

Use a stove-top grill pan and cook over medium heat on both sides until cooked all the way through, approximately five minutes on each side. If you don’t have a grill pan, sauté in a little olive oil for 5 minutes each side. Transfer the cutlets to a serving platter and top with a generous helping of Pineapple Salsa.

Scaloppine: Sautéed cutlets (usually veal, pork or poultry) that have been pounded thin and coated with flour.

For chicken: Cut the boneless, split chicken breast in half and pound it to approximately ¼-inch thickness.

For pork: Cut tenderloin into 4-5 ounce pieces and pound to approx.¼-inch thickness.

For veal: Cut top round into 4-5 ounce pieces and pound to approximately ¼-inch thickness or even thinner.

With your meat tenderizer, use the side with the small spikes to pound the meat, switching from one side to the other, until you reach the desired thickness. This process will ensure that your meat is not only tender but will cook as quickly as possible.

Pineapple Salsa

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

2 cups diced pineapple

1 cup red pepper, diced

¼ cup red onion, minced

½ cup green pepper, diced

¼ cup fresh lime juice

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for one hour before serving. To serve, spoon a generous helping over Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin, or serve on the side.

Storage: Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for 2-3 days.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni.

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