8 and $20 Recipe: Grilled Pork Tenderloin with a Rhône Red

A brown sugar and smoked paprika rub makes the match for this easy weeknight meal
May 13, 2014

Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

With days finally longer than nights in the northern hemisphere, it means we’re officially back in grilling season. (Yes!) For wine lovers, grilling means thinking about wines that can handle char and smoke—not always the easiest flavors to wrangle, but some do much better than others.

Case in point: Grenache-based wines. Typically medium-bodied with a fruity, spicy character and smooth tannins, these wines tend to soar where others get tripped up by both grill flavors and the bombastic seasonings that typically go with them. When I found a Grenache-based wine from the Southern Rhône that had a good score from Wine Spectator in my local market for $15 earlier this spring, I scooped it up and saved it for a sunny grill day.

Fast forward to now, to go with the wine, I picked a pork tenderloin as the main, supported by white beans tossed in olive oil and a simple green salad. Like chicken, pork is something of a blank canvas when it comes to pairing with wines. With lighter seasonings, it fits right in with Alsatian Rieslings and Pinot Gris. But when done up with more assertive spices and preparation methods (like grilling), it can go just as well with bold reds, like the one I had picked out.

For the first trial, I stuck with the French theme from the wine and made a spice rub from herbs de Provence, fennel seeds and minced garlic, and put it on the grill. The spice blend, I was hoping, would ring true with the anise from the wine’s tasting note. The combination was totally OK, with the herb rub lending a light and springy aura to the dish, but I felt there was just the slightest bitter edge on the wine with the food.

Back in the kitchen, for the second trial I tried a rub made from equal parts brown sugar and smoked paprika before putting it on the grill. A winning combination: The brown sugar acted less as a sweetener and more as a char-builder here, as the sugars caramelize to form a crisp crust on the meat. Likewise, the “smoked” part of the paprika amplified the grill flavor, which helped the wine work better with the food. The wine felt rounder and smoother, making a seamless partner with the pork.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Brown Sugar and Smoked Paprika Rub


Serve with a Grenache-based wine such as Cave de Rasteau Rasteau La Domelière 2010 (90 points, $15)


Total time: 25 minutes

Approximate food cost: $17

  • 1 pork tenderloin (around 1 1/3 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil, such as Canola or safflower
  • 2 15-ounce cans of cooked white beans, such as cannellini or navy

1. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat (between 350° F and 400° F). Season the pork tenderloin with salt. Combine the sugar, paprika and oil and rub over the pork. When the grill is hot enough, put the pork on the grill and cook, covered, turning every 4 to 5 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 140° F, around 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pork and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

2. Strain and rinse the white beans. In a medium-size pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans until heated through. Strain, season with salt and dress with olive oil. Place the sliced pork over the white beans, and serve with a green salad. Serves 4.

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