This Herb Crusted Pork With Zinfandel Reduction is sweet, sticky, spicy, and requires minimal hands-on time. A 4-pound pork tenderloin gets just around 90 minutes of cook time and feeds 10 to 12 hungry eaters. During prep time, the pork is rubbed with an herb-sugar-Dijon paste which forms a sweet and sticky crust while roasting. And for serving, a spiced old vine Zin is reduced to an intoxicating sauce you’ll soon not forget. Serve with mashed potatoes, Butternut Squash Risotto, or Oven Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Sherry & Cream. This is one of those kid friendly, mom approved dishes that everybody will be happy to indulge in.
January and February are stagnant months. Either it’s frozen outside, or just generally glum. Unless you live in Florida. I suspect it’s never quite frozen or glum in Florida…
It’s hard to get excited during those dull months that seem to drag following the Holidays. Worse yet, dull winter months are seemingly always chasing spring, only never to quite catch it. I find myself forcing spring by way of color and flowers and food. I may grab loose bulbs from my hardware store to start in my house. Paperwhites are good for this. Or I’ll create a springtime basket complete with herbs and flowers and ferns.
I also strip the house of all color, leaving whites and naturals to palette pale blues and pale pinks and pale greens. Tempting my senses are a real mood lifter in January and February. And, such is the recipe I am sharing herein today. It’s winter food in flavor, yet full of olfactory teasing signs of spring. I find it’s fabulous for spring, as I can pair it with a starchy vegetable side and a fresh greens and herb salad.
Cooking with wine is rewarding, in that dishes require fewer ingredients for the main ingredient to shine. Zinfandel is the heavy lifter in Herb Crusted Pork With Zinfandel Reduction.
Glancing over in the far corner of my kitchen, MANY bottles of wine sit waiting for consumption. This grouping is a mix of bottles which arrived in my quarterly case from WSJ Wines. Others are gifts people sent before Christmas. In particular, I have several bottles of old vine Zinfandels.
Now, these are not the typical super sweet ‘white Zinfandels’ you may be familiar with. These are red wines made from grapevines that are over 50 years old, and still producing. Old vine Zin’s are coveted for their intense, almost purple color, and usually come with a relatively high price tag. These grapes are almost exclusively reserved for producing red zinfandel.
I enjoy making the winter months all about cooking with wine, especially red wine and old Zin’s. The wine, along with sugar and heat, reduce slowly in a pan over medium heat. One level cup boils down to mere tablespoons of plummy magic. The now viscous liquid pushes otherwise hidden notes through, boasting of sweet and exotic spices. Simply put, it makes THE BEST SAUCE. Once you’ve tasted it, you will likely want to try it with other dishes.
In addition to this crusted pork roast, I use it on homemade grilled pizza which I top with a smoked béchamel, Pepper Jack, and a grating of my favorite hard cheese, Beemster. I finish it with fresh figs, fresh arugula, and this sauce. It’s killer, trust me. But…back to this herb crusted pork loin.
Funny it should be that the foods I disliked as a kid should be among the savviest of ingredients I use now to create in my kitchen. A Zinfandel reduction?
As a kid, I recall eating pork tenderloin with white wine sauce. I ate this almost every time I had occasion to eat with my playmate Laura’s family for dinner. Her family was Finnish and Italian, a rather uniquely combined heritage. I recall her mother disliking anything where tomatoes were a part of the dish. Pretty tough when you marry a guy from Brooklyn whose family came from Naples only a generation earlier.
Laura’s dad did the cooking in that house. ALL OF THE COOKING. His specialty? Pork tenderloin ten ways. And every pork tenderloin recipe the man prepared was with some kind of wine sauce, port wine reduction sauce, pork jus reduction, a fruit compote, or heavily laden cream sauce. Pork roast sauce never appealed to me as a kid. I was strictly there for the mashed potatoes. As I got older and began traveling, I realized the broadness of cooking with wine. This is where Europe had something better than us. And now, I am intrigued.
I cooked plenty of bad pork tenderloins before getting it right. I’m now “rock star status” where roasting is concerned…
My first ever herb crusted pork tenderloin was not bad, just not the biggest kitchen success for me. It had all of the good stuff; chopped fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and salt formed a paste which was to flavor the roast as it cooked. Mistake number one was attempting this in of all things, a slow cooker versus a roasting pan. The meat was dry and tasteless, all except for the kosher salt that seemed to overwhelm the entire dish. My herb crusted pork roast was essentially a big flop. Pay attention to methods!
When I moved into my first house, I cooked up a storm. Pork tenderloin was reasonable enough for me to purchase back in those days, and I tried everything I knew to embellish the heck out of it. I experimented with different herbs for pork roast from my garden. I learned what herbs go with pork, and how to cook an herb pork roast dinner without drying out the meat. And I Absolutely ditched recipes that specified using the slow cooker altogether. Additionally, I picked up a meat thermometer, ensuring the internal temperature of my roasts would always be consistent.
Use fresh herbs or dry in this recipe, whatever you have on hand. The herbs are maximum flavor in Herb Crusted Pork With Zinfandel Reduction.
I began adding a splash of olive oil to the tenderloin BEFORE coating with fresh herbs, sugars, or savory ingredients like curries or mustards. I quickly achieved Rockstar status with my pork roasts, but for their simplicity, not a recipe that called for tons of ingredients. Pork roast with sauce from the pan drippings became Sunday supper pretty weekly. With the seasonings, pork herbs, and pan drippings added to a rue, I was cranking out the best gravy around. That was, until I went to Europe where port sauce for meats is standard. Fast forward to this Herb Crusted Pork With Zinfandel Reduction. Laura’s dad would be proud of me, I think…
What You’ll Need To Prepare That Perfect Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Cooking A Tenderloin The Right Way
You will need a shallow roasting pan with a rack for this method. If you want to add a cup of liquid to the bottom of your roaster for moisture and for pan gravy later, skip the chicken broth and use ham stock. The flavor is richer tenfold, and the gravy it produces in combination with the pan drippings flavored with our ingredients here, will be amazing. Be sure the stock is gently warmed to about 100 degrees on the stove top before adding to the pan. If you’re not out for a gravy, and wish to solely use the Zin reduction, just use water to be discarded after cooking.
Herbs And Key Ingredients For Flavoring Pork Tenderloin
An herb pork tenderloin requires two varieties of herb; rosemary and thyme. These can be either fresh or dried. I have listed the equivalents in the recipe card for accurate measure. Sauce for a pork roast needs to be robust. As the flavors marry, the sauce will begin to compliment the meat. Stand alone ingredients almost never achieve this. A quality REAL Dijon mustard is key. It will be the moisture in the paste that will envelop the meat. Brown sugar, light or dark, will be the balance to the sharpness of the mustard.
The Best Wine Varietals To Use For A Reduction Sauce
The wine for pork roast I prefer is almost always an old vine Zinfandel. I always say to only cook with what you would also drink, so be sure to use something of quality. A modestly priced bottle which I also enjoy sipping is Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel. At under $20, it’s affordable to use for cooking as well as drinking with the dinner. It’s notes mean nothing more than adding the sugar and reducing need be done. If you cannot find an old vine Zin, I would then recommend using a port. To this, you will add the sugar and reduce in the same way. However, to port wine sauce for pork, consider adding dried cherries or figs to achieve the level of earthy sweetness that the Zin would give you. Cook them in the port as you reduce it, and discard before serving.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Herb Crusted Pork With Zinfandel Reduction
- roasting pan with meat rack insert
Ingredients for Herb Crusted Pork With Zinfandel Reduction
- 4 pound boneless pork top loin roast
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar light or dark
- 1 teaspoon black pepper coarsely ground
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon rosemary fresh, chopped, **see NOTES
- 1 tablespoon thyme fresh, chopped, **see NOTES
- 1 cup Zinfandel wine **use an old vine red Zinfandel
- 1/4 cup sugar
for the pork tenderloin roast
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Assemble a shallow roasting pan with a meat rack insert. Set aside.
**If planning to make a gravy from the pan drippings, pour 1 cup warmed ham stock into the bottom of the roasting pan. SEE MY RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE HAM STOCK. If not planning gravy, add 1 cup water to be discarded after the roast.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine Dijon, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of the rosemary, 2 teaspoons of the thyme, pepper, and salt. Mixture will be runny. Liberally rub pork with seasoning mixture on all sides and place on roasting rack. Bake 1–1 1/2 hours or until pork registers 145°F and is tender to the touch. Let stand 10 minutes tented under foil before slicing.
for the Zinfandel reduction
- 25 minutes ahead of roast finishing, combine in a small saucepan the Zinfandel wine, sugar and remaining rosemary. ** if using fresh rosemary, I often just toss a2-inch in tact branch in the wine reduction to avoid straining prior to serving. Cook over medium heat for 15 to 17 minutes or until reduced by half. Reduction will be viscous but still somewhat runny. Serve tableside with the pork roast.
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, or 6 sprigs = 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme