Making two-bite sandwiches for a weeknight meal is a nice way to mix things up every now and then. Ideally, they need to pack a lot of flavor into a tidy package.
Luckily, this is yet another recipe that builds on the versatility of pork tenderloin. Slathered with a quick paste of garlic, Spanish smoked paprika and olive oil (beware its high staining quotient and proceed accordingly; I used food-safe gloves), the meat roasts in the oven while you assemble the slaw, make quick-pickle slivers of red onion and flavor a store-bought mayonnaise.
For less of a fuss, you could just toss the fennel and cucumber with fresh lemon or lime juice and olive oil, and call it a day. But don’t skip the onions.
Paprika pork sliders with fennel slaw
4 servings (makes 12 small sandwiches)
The original recipe calls for mini burger buns or rolls. They can be hard to find, so we used a package of small brioche “baguettes,” available at Whole Foods Markets. Whatever bread component you choose, make sure it’s soft: That’s what works best for these sliders.
It’s helpful to have an instant-read thermometer for monitoring the meat and a mandoline for slicing the fennel.
Serve with baked sweet potato fries.
One 14- to 16-ounce unseasoned pork tenderloin
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium red onion
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch kosher salt
1 medium fennel bulb
1/2 English (seedless) cucumber
2 tablespoons pickle juice (from a jar)
5 tablespoons regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)
1 to 2 tablespoons quince paste (membrillo)
12 mini burger buns or soft rolls (split; see headnote)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Trim off and discard most of the visible fat and silver skin from the tenderloin. Use paper towels to pat the meat dry, then place it on the baking sheet.
Mince the garlic and place it in a small bowl. Add the smoked paprika and oil, stirring to form a paste. Use all of it to coat the meat. Roast (middle rack) for 12 minutes, then use tongs to turn the meat over. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork tenderloin registers 150 to 160 degrees. Let the meat rest.
While the meat is in the oven, cut the red onion into very thin slices and place them in a nonreactive bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, sugar and salt until the last two ingredients have dissolved, then pour the mixture over the onion, pressing to make sure it is submerged. Let it sit till you are ready to assemble the sandwiches.
Trim the fennel bulb (reserve the stalks for making broth, if you’d like) and cut it into quarters from top to bottom, letting the tough outer layer fall away. Use a mandoline or very sharp chef’s knife to cut the quarters into very thin slices, then place the slices in a mixing bowl. Peel the cucumber and cut it into small dice; add it to the fennel, along with the pickle juice, stirring to incorporate.
Combine the mayonnaise and quince paste (to taste) in a separate small bowl. Use an immersion (stick) blender to combine, or use a whisk and a sturdy arm.
Transfer the pork tenderloin to a cutting board (be careful which you choose, because it will stain); cut it into 1/4-inch slices.
To assemble the sandwiches, spread the quince mayo on the inside tops and bottoms of each bun or roll, laying them spread sides up.
Divide the sliced meat among the 12 bottom bun or roll halves, then top with the fennel slaw and some of the pickled red onion. Complete the sliders with the top bun or roll halves.
Serve right away.
Nutrition per serving (using low-fat mayonnaise): 560 calories, 28 g protein, 58 g carbohydrates, 23 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 970 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar