local cuisine–pork tenderloins
February 3, 2011 § 3 Comments
A colleague and good friend submitted her resignation earlier this week. The two of us have been talking about a big project, and we had a working lunch scheduled anyway, but with her departure we decided we needed to make it more of an event. “Suburban?” I suggested. “SUBURBAN!” she wrote back.
In most states, you’d get some kind of argument if you proposed a “state dish.” Maine would be lobster, OK, but New York? Pastrami on rye? Plain bagel with a cream cheese shmear? And what about California? In Iowa there would be no debate at all. Pork tenderloin sandwich, breaded and deep-fried. Absolutely. (OK, the loose-meat sandwich has its devotees, but there aren’t many of them left and that’s one of those meals that came out of the Great Depression). The ideal tenderloin is pounded flat, breaded with a thick crust–but not so thick that you can’t taste the pork–and deep fried so the meat stays moist but the crust has a satisfying crunch. A real tenderloin ought to hang off the bun by a good 1-1/2″ so that you can get a couple of bites without the bun interfering. Tomatoes and lettuce are there for show, and if you put mustard or (god forbid) ketchup on it, you’ll get cold looks from other diners, and someone in a seed corn cap will probably say “you ain’t from around here, now, are you?”
Now, you would get an argument about the best pork tenderloin in Iowa, but ‘around these parts’ there’s only one contender: the Suburban Restaurant in Gilbert. The place would be worth it just for the directions–drive 2 miles north of town, turn left at the Casey’s gas station, then left again at the pumps, park, and see if the two sisters who run the place have decided to open for lunch or not. We were early, but they still served us piping hot tenderloins and sides “Oh,” my colleague said when I ordered cole slaw, “of course you’d get the healthy option.” They were, of course, perfect. A big bite of crust and juicy, but not greasy, meat inside. You know it’s good when you sort of mourn the end of the overhanging bits, and then decide the hell with the bun…Empty calories, anyway.
I’ve decided that this will be a project. We’ve done enough fried chicken that the deep frying part doesn’t scare me anymore. But the pounding of meat will be a new thing for us, and I’m thinking a bit of rosemary in the breading might do the pork justice. The kids are skeptical–I’ve explained to them that it will be just like fried chicken, but with pork, and they’ve both suggested that we have mulligans ready. “Trust me,” I said. “It will be your favorite sandwich of all time. You’re Iowans! It’s your birthright!” Of course, they were both born in California, so it may not work like that. Anyway, watch this space.
The best part? Looking up recipes, it turns out that the pork tenderloin is called the “Iowa Skinny” everywhere in the U.S. except Iowa. Talk about an ironic name…
Leftovers tonight. This pizza dough does not survive the fridge as well as the artisanal stuff, that’s for sure. We’ll see how the gelato survived the night later on…Or, rather, the kids will, since my calorie counter has officially kicked me out of the kitchen for the rest of the night. Worth it, though.