I grew up on an incredibly tight budget, so I come by my thrifty ways naturally. My mom, a single college student with two daughters, was a master at stretching a dollar, unapologetic about her need to count every penny. Still, she insisted on the occasional small splurge, and for our birthdays that almost always meant her famous marinated flank steak.

She proudly told everyone that she had gotten her recipe from the electric company. I never thought to ask what she meant – had a recipe been included in her monthly bill? – and she died before I had the chance. The tradition, though, passed on to my family, and Mom’s flank steak, with a sauce so tasty I’ve been known to slurp it up with a spoon like it’s soup, is the most requested birthday dinner in our home, too.

In this week’s recipe, I take inspiration from Mom’s steak, but update it to a quicker, healthier, and even less expensive, version. I swapped steak out and used ultra-lean pork tenderloin instead, which has about 125 calories, 3 grams of fat and more than 20 grams of protein per serving. While flank steak needs to marinate for hours to soften the tough muscle fibers, the tenderloin takes on flavors so readily that using the marinade ingredients to make a quick sauce to pour over the cooked pork sliced into medallions does the trick. And, pork tenderloin even will save a little cash since it’s usually about half the price of flank steak, pound-for-pound. Birthday dinners may always include Mom’s flank steak, but it’s nice to have a speedy, lower fat version for an average Tuesday night.

PORK MEDALLIONS WITH LEMON THYME SAUCE

Servings: 8

Start to finish: 25 minutes

2 pork tenderloins, about 1.25 lb. each, trimmed of fat and silver skin

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Sauce:

1/4 cup finely chopped green onion

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven on a burner at medium high heat. Season the whole tenderloins with salt and pepper and rub with the Dijon mustard to coat. Rub the olive oil all over the outside of the roasts to keep from sticking to the pan. Brown the roasts in the skillet until golden brown crust forms, turning so all sides are golden, about 10 minutes total. Use tongs to remove the roasts and place on foil-lined baking tray, or keep in skillet if oven-safe, and place the roasts in the oven. Cook until 155 F on the inside, about 12-15 minutes depending on the roast thickness. (Use a thermometer).

Meanwhile, make the sauce: place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. As soon as the mixture begins to bubble, give the sauce a stir and turn off the heat. (This will be quick.)

Once the meat is removed from the oven, let it rest for five full minutes. Slice the meat and spoon the sauce on top to serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 178 calories; 55 calories from fat; 6 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 82 mg cholesterol; 519 mg sodium; 2 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 27 g protein.

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