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Author Notes: If you grew up in the Midwest, you've likely had a fried pork tenderloin sandwich, and if you haven't had one, you're missing out. Here's how to get your fix. The buttermilk brine both tenderizes and flavors the pork, and crushed soda crackers yield a craggly, crispy breading. One of the hallmarks of a great Midwestern fried pork tenderloin sandwich is its size, so don't be timid when pounding the pork. Aim for the pork to be at least twice the size of the bun, or nearly the size of a dinner plate. —EmilyC
Makes 4 giant sandwiches
- 1 to 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup pickle juice (from a jar of dill pickles)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 sleeve soda crackers (about 40 crackers
- peanut oil, for frying
- potato buns (such as Martins)
- Suggested toppings: mayonnaise, dill pickles, tomato, onion
- Trim the pork tenderloin of any excess fat or silver skin. Cut the pork tenderloin into 4 equal pieces (about 2- to 3-inches in length). Butterfly each piece by slicing almost all of the way through vertically; open the pork like a book and flatten it with your hands on a cutting board. Cover each piece of pork with plastic wrap or wax paper, and pound into a thin cutlet with a meat mallet or heavy frying pan until about 1/4-inch in thickness.
- In a shallow bowl or pan, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, pickle juice, kosher salt, and pepper. Add the pork (it should be fully submerged in the brine); cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Take the pork out of fridge about 20 to 30 minutes before you plan to fry it. (Frying cold pork will cause the oil to drop in temperature.) Pulse the crackers in a food processor, aiming for a mix of finer and coarser-sized crumbs.
- Set up a breading station by placing the cracker crumbs in a wide, shallow dish, and the flour in another dish. Remove each piece of pork from the brine, letting any excess drip off. Dredge both sides of the pork in the flour, then place back in the buttermilk brine, then fully coat with cracker crumbs.
- Meanwhile, fill a large skillet with high sides with at least one inch of peanut oil and heat to 350 degrees F.
- Place each piece of pork in the skillet (one at a time is recommended) and fry on the first side until golden, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip the pork, and fry on the second side until golden, crispy, and cooked through, another 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels or on a wire cooling rack set over a baking sheet. (You can transfer the fried pork to a baking sheet in a 220 degree F oven to keep it warm while frying the rest.) Make sure the oil is at 350 degrees F before frying each piece of pork.
- Place the fried pork on the buns, garnish with condiments of choice, and serve immediately.