Sunday, 13 September 2015

Cajun Pork Medallions with Potato and Vegetable Hash

When I asked my husband what he wanted me to do with the pork tenderloin for dinner he said"Cajun", and added "with potatoes". The potato part was simple...I had a few purple and yellow baby potatoes to use, and I combined them with some red pepper, zucchini, onion and corn to make a quick hash to serve with the pork.

The Cajun part required me to make a spice blend, as this is not something we make very often, and I had none in the house. This was actually a good thing though, as the purchased blends are often very high in salt, and I could control that by making my own. I enjoyed choosing which spices I was going to use, and mixing and tasting the results. I ended up with a reasonably balanced spice mix, that had just enough heat to satisfy the heat lovers in the house, without torturing the others.

I had a pork tenderloin, and sliced it into medallions instead of leaving it whole, partly to speed up the cooking and partly for something different to what we normally have.

When making the spice blend I put my own twist on it, by using roasted garlic powder instead of plain; some smoked paprika; a black, pink and green peppercorn blend and as I mentioned earlier a lot less salt.

To make the Cajun spice blend, combine the following herbs and spices:

1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon mixed peppercorns, ground
1 teaspoon roasted garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon salt

Make the potato hash by boiling baby potatoes in lightly salted water until just tender. Drain, and cool. Cut them into quarters and set aside.

Thinly slice onion, zucchini and red pepper and add to a hot wok with a bit of olive oil. Cook, stirring often to avoid burning for a couple of minutes and then add in the potatoes. Add more oil if needed to avoid sticking to the wok, and remember to stir often! Season with salt and pepper during cooking.

Add frozen corn and cook until it is heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning. I cooked the hash while the pork was in the oven.

Turn the oven on to 350F.

Slice the pork tenderloin into 1" thick slices. The smaller end pieces can be cut into thicker slices and then butterflied so that they are the same thickness.

Put some of the Cajun spice onto a small plate, and carefully roll the outside edges of your medallions in the spices.

In a very hot pan, with olive oil, sear the spiced edges of the pork, turing them carefully as each side becomes 'blackened'.

Remove each piece as it is done and set aside until all of the pieces have been seared.

Carefully wipe out the pan using a piece of paper towel, to remove any bits of burned spices that remain. Heat the pan again.

Add a bit of olive oil to the hot pan, and replace the pork, large side down to quickly sear it.

Turn the pork over and place the pan into the oven.

Bake until the pork is cooked through. This took about 10 - 15 minutes.

Remove the pork from the oven and allow it to rest before serving it.

I served the pork on a bed of potato and vegetables hash, along with some roasted carrots. Reserve the pan juices, and spoon them over the pork and potatoes.

  • Cajun, or blackened, food is a style of cooking that relies on an incredibly hot pan to sear meat that has been coated with a Cajun spice blend. This quickly sears the meat, keeping it juicy inside, and creates a spicy blackened crust on the outside. Often used for fish and chicken, it can be used for most meats, as long as the meat is a cut that will retain tenderness without a long, slow cooking method.
  • The spices most often used in Cajun blends are paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, cumin, dried thyme and oregano, garlic and onion powder. Traditionally, file powder is also included. This is dried sassafrass leaves, that have been ground. Mustard powder can also be added.
  • The amount of heat you create with your spice blend is entirely up to you. Increase the cayenne pepper and peppercorns until you are satisfied with the intensity.
  • If you have onion salt and/or garlic salt, you might want to consider omitting the regular salt as these are both incredibly salty spices.
  • Another way to increase the spiciness of the pork is to coat all of the sides of the medallions with the spices, before blackening them.
  • The meat was incredibly juicy, and using the pan juices as a sauce allowed us to enjoy all of the spice flavours. To increase the amount of sauce, remove the meat from the pan to rest, and heat the pan juices along with some chicken or beef stock.
  • The pork can be left whole and coated in the spice blend before being seared and then roasted. Thinly sliced and served with a salad, over rice, or in a sandwhich this is a versatile dish.
  • Instead of pork, use chicken breasts; firm fleshed white fish such as snapper, halibut or tilapia; prawns or scallops.
  • Leftover blackened fish can be flaked, and used to make fish tacos. Finely shred cabbage, carrots and green onions and toss with lime juice and cilantro to make a slaw. Add some diced avocado to finish off your taco toppings, and serve in a warm tortilla.
  • The Cajun spice blend can be added to soups or rice. It can also be mixed with mayonnaise to make a spicy condiment. 
  • A spice blend that is kept in a tightly sealed container, in a cool dry place, will keep for a few weeks. See the post The Spice Drawer for tips on storing and using spices.

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