When it comes to must-read Arkansas food blogs, a few names automatically jump to my mind — Tie Dye TravelsRed Kitchen Recipes, NWA Foodie, and Arkansas Mirepoix being just a few. One of the first Arkansas food writers I ever read, though, remains one of my favorites: Christie Ison of Fancy Pants Foodie. Ison is a graduate of the excellent Pulaski Tech Culinary Program, and her work with Share Our Strength’sNo Kid Hungry” program has raised a lot of money to fight child hunger. Ison is probably best known for organizing the annual blogger bake sale to benefit SOS, which regularly beats much larger cities with the amount of money it takes in.

Ison is a proponent of gluten-free living, something that has been the source of many good-natured back-and-forths between her and my bread-loving self. There’s no denying that there is a growing market for gluten-free items, and for her recipe spotlight, she’s picked a dish that is obviously gluten free since pigs don’t contain gluten — a coffee-encrusted pork tenderloin that looks simply scrumptious. It’s nice to know that even when two bloggers don’t agree on the role of gluten in the diet, they can come together over man’s best friend: the pig.

Wide-Eyed Pork Tenderloin

For the pork:
*2 Pork tenderloins
*1/4 c. whole coffee beans, any unflavored variety (I used Peru from Mugs Cafe)
*2 T. whole peppercorns (black, red, or a variety)
*2 T. dried onion flakes
*1 T. pink Himalayan salt (or kosher if you don’t have it)
*1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
*1/2 tsp. garlic powder
*1 T. olive oil

For the gravy:
*1 cup prepared coffee
*1/2 cup apple juice
*2 T. orange juice concentrate
*1 T. cornstarch
*1/4 c. half and half
*1 T. pure maple syrup 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Trim silverskin and large pieces of fat from the tenderloins. Rinse and pat very dry with paper towels. Place on a rimmed baking sheet or dry baking dish.

Place coffee beans, peppercorns and dried onion in a coffee grinder or (preferably) a spice grinder. Grind to a fine powder. Add the paprika and garlic powder, and buzz one more time to blend well.

Using your hands, press the mixture over all surfaces of the tenderloins.

Heat a large skillet with the olive oil. When hot, sear the tenderloins, one at a time, turning after about one minute on each side. Look for a crisp, dark sear. Meanwhile, clean the extra rub from the baking sheet or dish and make sure it’s dry. Return the seared pork to the dish.

At this point, you can store the tenderloin overnight or up to 24 hours in the fridge, allowing the flavors to infuse into the meat. It’s nice but not required.

I used to recommend doing this in the slow cooker, and if you prefer that method, the instructions are here. Honestly, the gravy comes out better that way because of the released juices, and the meat is extremely tender and decadent. However, lately I’ve come to prefer pork just done at 145-150 degrees, achieved by a roast in the oven.

Place the baking dish with the tenderloins in the oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 145. (I love my Thermapen for this task!) The temperature will rise a bit more while resting.

Because roasting doesn’t produce as much liquid as slow cooking, we’ll have to make the gravy with prepared coffee while the pork is cooking. In a clean skillet or saucepan (or, using the searing pan if the coffee grounds don’t bother you), heat the coffee, apple juice and orange juice concentrate over medium high heat until simmering. Make a slurry of the cornstarch with a splash of very cold water (I usually add an ice cube) and whisk it into the mixture, cooking until thickened. Add the half and half and maple syrup. When the tenderloins are done and have rested about 15 minutes, pour any juices they have released into the gravy and whisk together, cooking it back down a bit if necessary. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Slice the loins carefully and serve with the red eye maple gravy.

Did you try this recipe? Have a favorite pork preparation to share? Let us know in the comment.