I hated honey growing up. My mom used to make me eat it off a teaspoon as a kind of cloying cough syrup when I was sick. But I’ll admit that I’ve acquired the taste, very strongly, for honey. Whether I lick it off a spoon, or cook with it as a full fledge ingredient, I think it is incomparable in terms of that sticky texture. And it has the fantastic protean ability to take on whatever sweetness you need it to have. When you taste it on its own, it’s natural to think, ‘this is too sweet to put on meat,’ or on anything savory for that matter. But it just mellows out and works. It balances the acids in vinaigrettes, it cuts the gaminess in meats, it enhances and brightens vegetables. It does what lemon does, only on the sweet side of the spectrum.
This recipe is one of my favorites. It’s seamless, easy, and it just works. I sear a salted and peppered pork tenderloin in olive oil until it’s nicely dark and golden brown. Then, I deglaze the pan with some stock. Meanwhile, I mash together tons of fresh thyme, lavender or thyme honey, and a bit of softened sweet butter. I rub the meat with the honey-thyme glaze, and roast it along with the pan sauce. The pork cook to a blushing pink, while the glaze bubbles up and caramelizes to the outside of the meat. The honey cooks into the pan juices, and creates a naturally thick and flavorful jus. You would think the pork would be very sweet, but it’s not. The salt and thyme and stock and the meat itself completely balances the sweetness of the honey. Instead, the honey helps to add to that glorious brown crust on the outside of the meat, adhering all the earthy time straight onto the pork like Krazy Glue. I can’t wait to make this one again. Such pedestrian ingredients, such a great dish.
Excerpted from my weekly column The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats.
- 1 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloin
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup thyme or lavender honey
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 low-sodium organic chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Take the pork out of the fridge 15 minutes before you want to use it. Pat it dry with a paper towel, and season the pork liberally on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, sear the pork until golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per sides, or 12 minutes total. Take the pork out of the pan, and add the chicken stock. Scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and reserve the sauce.
While the pork is searing, whisk together the thyme, honey, and butter until completely incorporated. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Carefully rub the mixture all over the outside of the seared pork.
Place the honey-ed pork on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet that has been lightly oiled. Use a spoon to pour any of the honey mixture that runs off the meat back on top of the pork loin. Pour the chicken stock from the searing pan into the baking sheet. Roast the pork in the oven until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, about 10 to 12 minutes. Take the pork out of the oven, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice into medallions, and serve with the pan sauce and a few extra sprigs of fresh thyme.print this recipe