Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Smoked Four-Onion Relish and Sweet Potato Cake

Mark Tarbell

Tarbell’s, Phoenix

Mark Tarbell generously shared his recipe for the pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloin is one of the leanest and most tender cuts, so take care not to overcook it. Some chefs prefer to cook the tenderloin just until it is pink in the middle.



  • 2 cups applewood chips
  • 1 white onion, trimmed and peeled
  • 1 red onion, trimmed and peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and chopped
Sweet Potato Cakes:
  • 3 raw sweet potatoes, shredded
  • 1 poblano chile, charred, peeled, and diced
  • 1 Anaheim chile, charred, peeled, and diced
  • 1/2 cup diced pancetta or bacon, fried until crispy
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
Salsa Verde:
  • 4 tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1/3 bunch parsley
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound fresh spinach leaves, washed thoroughly to remove the sand, and dried
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice


To begin, preheat the oven to 400º, and heat the grill.

To prepare the relish, soak the applewood chips in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain the wood chips and set them aside. Place a roasting pan on top of the stove, and scatter the wood chips at the bottom of the pan. Put a roasting rack on top of the chips and place the onions on top. Cover the pan tightly with foil and adjust the burner to high heat. Smoke the onions for 10 minutes and then uncover. Remove them from the smoker, and thinly slice them. In a medium saucepan, sauté the onion slices until golden brown. Add the garlic and the scallions, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Keep the relish warm in the oven.

To prepare the sweet potato cakes, combine the shredded sweet potatoes, chiles, and pancetta in a medium bowl. Form 4 pancakes from the mixture. In a small sauté pan, heat the oil until it begins to smoke. Sear the pancakes one at a time, browning them on both sides. Keep the sweet potato cakes warm.

For the salsa verde, purée all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and add salt to taste.

To prepare the tenderloin, moisten the pork with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with salt and pepper. On a very hot grill, grill the tenderloin until cooked through but still tender (about 15 minutes on each side). Do not overcook. Set aside, and let stand in a warm place.

In a medium-size saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over high heat. Sauté the spinach, and add the lime juice to the pan when the greens have wilted. To serve the dish, place a sweet potato cake on each of the 4 plates, top with the hot spinach, then the onion relish. Cut the tenderloin on the diagonal into thin slices. Fan 6 slices on every pancake, and ladle salsa in a crescent shape around the pork.


4 servings