This sandwich is and will probably always be the center of a feud between Indiana and Iowa. Both claim to be the home of the best breaded pork tenderloin. I have no intention to get into this debate. Although I went to college in Indiana (Wabash College), I don’t remember ever eating or even hearing about the BPT. I was born in Iowa and also married there and have had many BPTs there. This is to say that I can’t be biased since I haven’t tasted the Indiana contender. What I do know is when I say I’m going to make breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches people take notice, no one is late for dinner, and everyone is pleasantly full when the dishes are cleared.
Having researched this sandwich several times I have found no consensus on the recipe. Everyone has their own idea of the perfect BPT. What follows is my father-in-law DeVere’s version. I only watched him make it one time but there aren’t many ingredients to remember and the process is your basic breading station. It’s the only recipe I’ve ever used and after a few adjustments I’ve never gotten anything but rave reviews. Not pounding them too thin and double breading were the last lessons I needed to learn.
My oldest granddaughter is a perfect example of this sandwich’s popularity. When she was 4 or so I made these one Wednesday night and after her usual protests that she wasn’t hungry she proceeded to devour it. After her first bite I don’t think she put it down. After dinner she asked if I would make it for her birthday and reminded me numerous times before the day came. It is now her standard birthday meal.
This is not a quick recipe but it is well worth the effort.
Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches (4 sandwiches)
1 pork tenderloin cut into 4 pieces about 2 inches each
(see Reflections #1 and #2),
2 ½ packs saltine crackers
1 1/2 c flour
1 c milk
4 hamburger buns (see Reflection #3)
- Put the crackers in a large, sealable plastic bag. Crush, first by hand and then with a rolling pin. You don’t want it powdered but no large pieces either. A food processor won’t be satisfactory, trust me.
- Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the cutting board, set one of the tenderloin portions on end and press down with your palm. Cover it with another piece of plastic wrap and use the flat side of a meat mallet to flatten it. Tap gently and try to keep it a uniform thickness. It will probably be rectangular and about 4×7 inches. (See Reflection #4)
- When they’re all pounded out set up a breading station. Get out three shallow bowls large enough for the tenderloins. In the first put the flour, in the second whisk until blended the egg and milk, and in the third put about half the cracker crumbs.
- Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet to medium high. A few cracker crumbs dropped in should bubble. When the oil is hot, dredge a tenderloin in the flour and shake off excess. Dip in the egg letting excess drip off. Now, into the crackers and coat both sides. Not done yet. Back into the egg dripping off the excess and once more into the crackers. As you settle it into the oil it should begin to sizzle nicely. If your pan will hold another, repeat.
- Cook until golden on both sides (4-5 minutes per side). Add the extra cracker crumbs and bread and fry the last two. If the outside is golden the meat will be done. Also, I don’t use any salt since the crackers bring plenty to the party.
Serve with your favorite condiments. I favor kosher dill pickles, red onion, and yellow mustard but it’s your call.
Reflection #1: Don’t settle for pork loin; it just isn’t the same. I generally buy a cryo-pack which contains 2 tenderloins. Before you cut them up take some time to remove the fat and silver skin from the meat. YouTube® has several videos showing how to do that.
Reflection #2: If only pork tenderloins were perfect cylinders. Alas, they are not. You’ll want to try to balance the portions. From the thick end the first piece is generally a bit misshapen while the next two are nice and round. The last one or two taper off and will be oddly shaped as well. If you bought a two-pack, you can use the two center cuts from each. What about the extra pieces? I’ve never had a problem using pork tenderloin. Breakfast medallions or stir fry come to mind first.
Reflection #3: BPTs are usually served on a standard bun and the joke is that the sandwich is two to three times the size of the bun. That’s as it should be and maintains the tradition.
Reflection #4: Don’t pound these too thin says the voice of experience. Better a little smaller than 4×7 than too thin. A quarter of an inch is good. Remember it’s tenderloin so it will by definition be tender.