As I got into the taxi with that hard-to-understand man with salt and pepper hair, I knew I was heading to a place in my beloved city that I had never been. We turned onto Zanja from Campanario and began our way, getting little shelter from the sweltering heat in the 1954 Chevy, alongside two other passengers. Whenever you drive anywhere in Havana the smell of diesel is present. The first scent I notice even as I get off of the airplane at Jose Marti International is the diesel smell. It probably was the same in the US at some point in time, but not anymore. In any case, the smell of diesel was filling my nose, and the Caribbean colors remained ever-present. We arrived at Cuatro Caminos and I hesitated to go in.
It was just so big, there were so many people, and there was so much stuff. I was used to the half-empty grocery store in Miramar, not a market full of just about any vegetable, spice, or cut of pork. Me and the silver-haired man perused the market and in a frenzy I was buying tomatoes, cilantro, corn flour, lettuce, eggplant, pork, and just about anything else that looked delicious at the moment. But it all looked so amazing. Once I was done spending about a month’s salary for the average Cuban on the veggies, flour, and meat, we hopped into our taxi and drove home, me still swooning over what I had just seen.
Sadly, the Cuatro Caminos market, one of the largest in Havana, has closed, supposedly to open a shopping center built by the Chinese. I will be very quick to admit that I never saw a whole pork tenderloin in Cuba. This is a nice cut, and they might include it in the bistecs that are ubiquitous in Havana. This cut is tender and delicious, perfect for a quick spice rub, or a longer sit with the rub if you have time, and isn’t too expensive. It is perfect for a quick, flavorful dinner main entrée.
Cuban Pork Tenderloin
Notes: Pork Tenderloin almost always comes as 2 packaged in one package, so I usually just cook two. My grandmother always said, why cook one when you can cook two with the same amount of effort. I always think it is better to make the marinade/spice blend first and then add it to the meat. This way, all of the spices and flavors are evenly distributed.
- 2 pork tenderloins
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of pepper
- juice of two limes
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon pimentón (or other paprika of your choice)
- 1 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- oil for frying
- large oven safe skillet (such as cast iron)
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Mix all of the spices, lime juice, and olive oil into a bowl. It will form a sort of reddish-brown paste.
- Cover both pork tenderloins with the paste evenly, set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in oven safe pan over medium-high heat.
- Once oil is shimmering, place pork tenderloins in the pan and sear on one side until a dark golden brown. Repeat this on all 4 sides, so that the whole pork tenderloin is seared. If you can only fit one pork tenderloin in the pan, just do one at a time, but place both in the pan before the next step.
- Place the whole pan with the pork tenderloins into the pre-heated oven.
- Bake the pork tenderloins for about 25-30 minutes, or until they have reached an internal temperature of about 160° (you can test this with a meat thermometer into the center of the tenderloin.
- Serve with a lime wedge, your choice of sides, and enjoy!