Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tailgating Recipes: Greek Pork Tenderloin with Tzatziki Sauce

Now that we've covered the traditional burgers and brats, I thought it would be nice to branch out a bit and do something a little more creative for this week's tailgate.  So, I figured we'd go to Greece.

Nothing says college football like a church on Santorini...
Back in college, I was fortunate enough to spend a semester in Greece.  It was a fantastic time and I was able to travel throughout the entire country and ultimately came back with some great memories and loads of new friends.  My parents even came out to visit, which was nice.

Images from Mars... Hill.
The strongest food memory I have of Greece were the gyros.  Despite what the gyro stands here in America lead you to believe, gyros in Greece are almost exclusively made of pork.  The toppings varied a bit depending on the region, but pork was the default protein.  Some places had chicken as another option, but no lamb.

My new friends and I came back on a mission to recreate the delicious gyros we had in Greece, but we failed miserably.  It wasn't until my Aunt Kay gave me a jar of "Greektown 'Billygoat' Seasoning" from  The Spice House in Evanston, Illinois, when I finally found the missing piece.

This seasoning is LEGIT.  When you put it on pork, it tastes just like the gyro meat from Greece.  It also works great on roasted potatoes and plain brown rice.
While it tastes best on fattier cuts of pork, it's just as good on lean cuts like the loin, or tenderloin.  Which is nice, because it takes a lot less time to grill a tenderloin... and it's a lot healthier.

So, here's what you'll need for the tenderloin:
  • At least one pork tenderloin
  • Greektown "Billygoat" Seasoning
WARNING:  Many half foods grocery stores sell "Tender Pork Loin" or "Petite Pork Loin" that look a lot like pork tenderloins.  They actually aren't tenderloins at all, they're regular pork loins (like pork chops) cut down to look like tenderloins.  Even Whole Foods sells a "Petite Pork Loin" behind their meat counter.  It's a sham!

Preheat your grill to high.

While your grill is heating up, rinse and pat-dry your tenderloins and season them generously with the Billygoat.  If you can't get your hands on the Billygoat seasoning, Cavender's is a tasty alternative that you can find pretty much anywhere.

Place the tenderloins directly over the heat.  Grill each side for 4-5 minutes.  Keep in mind that pork tenderloins have THREE SIDES.  That means you'll rotate the tenderloin twice and grill it for a total of 12-15 minutes.

After the time has passed, check the internal temperature of the pork.  Once the pork hits 140 degrees, remove it from the grill.  Let the tenderloins rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

This pork is really tasty on its own, but it's over-the-top when it's served with homemade tzatziki sauce

I asked the owner of my favorite gyro spot in Greece how he made his.  He ended up writing down a list of ingredients without any quantities.  The only additional information he told me was that he grated his cucumbers instead of dicing them.  

So, here's the recipe I came up with based on his ingredient list:
  • 24 oz. tub of plain Greek yogurt (try to get full-fat or low-fat, but all Chelsi could find was nonfat)
  • 2 English cucumbers (seedless)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (less if you're using full-fat yogurt)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off the cucumbers and grate the cucumber on a coarse box grater.  Place all of the grated cucumber on a double layer of paper towels and soak up as much water as you can.  Soaking up the water will help keep the cucumber crisp and keep from watering down the tzatziki.

Combine the yogurt, grated cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in a bowl and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tzatziki is best when the flavors are left to combine overnight.  If you're going to eat it immediately, consider adding extra garlic so you can taste it a bit more.

Put the pork, tzatziki, and your favorite toppings on a bun or a pita and get ready for some football!

Typical gyro ingredients around Athens: Tzatziki, french fries, pork, tomatoes, onions, and a pinch of hot paprika.  Up North and on the islands, they usually replaced the french fries with lettuce.  It's all tasty!
Tailgating Tip:  If you've got a noon game this Saturday, go ahead and season the pork right before you go to bed.  The seasoning will permeate throughout the tenderloin and really enhance the flavor.  It will also make clean-up a lot easier.


  1. I just ate dinner, but boy I'm hungry again. :D

    1. Thanks Aman! That stuff is good. The tzatziki is good on pretty much anything too: any meat, veggies, and pita chips.

  2. I just read your Greece Group post--love it! I've been disappointed in my search for greek seasoning. I think cavenders has MSG. What would you guess is in this season blend? or do I need to search for this place online? or do I just need to go back to Greece?

    1. Thanks Erika! Well... I would just say go back to Greece, but here is a link where you can order this stuff online:

      The Spice House is a highly reputable spice store in Chicago and they have established a large online presence due to their local fame. As you can see on their website, there's no mention of MSG or any other unknown chemicals in the Greektown "Billygoat" Seasoning. Just "coarse flake salt, granulated garlic powder, Tellicherry black pepper, onion powder, Greek fancy oregano and powdered lemon peel." Pretty straight forward. It's awesome!