I don’t quite know how it happened—I’m a good mid-Atlantic girl!—but I find myself these days literally surrounded by Midwesterners. They have a particular brand of earnestness, niceness, and . . . odd childhood food favorites. When we are all together they’re always reminiscing about some Cool Whip–laden dessert or cheesy baked dish. I personally don’t recall ever eating these things growing up. Crab cake, anyone?
One thing they’re forever talking about that you just can not find outside that expansive section of our country is the tenderloin sandwich. They clamor to tell me how it should be eaten: on crappy hamburger buns / with little to no condiments / where the meat is so big it exceeds the bun by inches all around / with something like waffle fries from a bag. Sounds . . . delicious? Waffle fries would be a guarantee, at the very least.
They found recipes, settled on one, and decided we would have a whole Midwestern night. Somehow, however, I ended up in the kitchen doing all the cooking. I pointed out that I was the only non-Midwesterner. Holly said “We know how to eat them, not how to cook them.” It fell to me to butterfly pork tenderloin while Holly, Jason, and Chris pounded them flat and then breaded them up. I fried them all to what looked to me to be crispy perfection. (And let’s be honest. The idea that I might relinquish control of my kitchen was a folly.)
We piled the giant tenderloins on Wonder Bread hamburger buns (I added lettuce and mayo) and dug in, with waffle fries and supermarket cole slaw on the side. And you know what? It was truly delicious, in the way only an all-white meal can be.
A few lessons learned, should you want to make this yourself:
- Do not be afraid to pound this out to absurdly large diameter. It shrinks up a LOT once it’s in the oil (think bacon’s shrinkage). Go even bigger than you think, if you want it to hang over the bread like it did in your childhood.
- Keep the oil very hot. Even in my cast iron pan, it cooled if there were two pieces in the pan, leading to longer frying times.
- Lettuce adds a much needed brightness and crunch. I conveniently had iceberg in the fridge; I don’t think any other kind would be appropriate.
- Wonder Bread hamburger buns are really perfectly soft.
Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
Cut a whole boneless pork loin into 1-inch pieces. Butterfly these pieces and then pound between two pieces of plastic wrap (as you can see, I bought my Saran Wrap around Christmas, so it’s red!) til 1/8 inch thick. We use old empty heavy salsa jars to pound, but a meat tenderizer would probably work best!
Dip the pounded meat into water, then dredge in a mixture made up of 2 parts flour to 1 part cornmeal, seasoned generously with salt and plenty of pepper.
Heat a half-inch of vegetable oil (I used canola) to super hot in a cast-iron pan. (I didn’t put a thermometer in to test the temp, just tested the oil by tossing loose flour into the oil. When it sizzled like crazy, it was ready.) Set the breaded tenderloin in and fry til golden brown, about 3 minutes a side.
Serve on crappy buns with desired condiments (DO NOT BE AFRAID OF CONDIMENTS, MIDWESTERNERS).