For this Southern-inspired dish, Elliot gives pork tenderloin incredible flavor with a quick brine in sweet tea and aromatic spices.More Delicious Pork RecipesRecipe from Food & Wine Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook

2004 Best New Chef Graham Elliott
Graham Elliot


Credit: © Chris Court

Recipe Summary

30 mins
2 hrs


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • In a large bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the sugar with 1 tablespoon of water until the sugar has dissolved. Add the vinegar and jalapeño and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the jalapeño. Add the watermelon to the bowl, toss to coat and let stand for 1 hour, tossing occasionally. Drain the watermelon and season with salt.

  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the 1 cup of salt withthe remaining 1⁄2 cup of sugar and the cardamom, peppercorns, coriander seeds, tea bag and 2 quarts of water. Bring to a simmer. Strain the brine into a large heatproof bowl and let cool completely. Immerse the pork tenderloins in the brine and let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes. Rinse the pork and pat dry.

  • Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the pork and cook on all sides until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pork to the oven and roast for about 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 150°. Let the pork rest for 15 minutes.

  • Heat 1 inch of canola oil in a medium, heavy pot until it reaches 350° on a candy thermometer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, cornstarch, flour, Old Bay, smoked paprika, sumac and 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt. Pour the buttermilk into a small bowl. Dip the okra in the buttermilk, then dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Fry the okra until tender and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the fried okra to a paper towel–lined plate.

  • Slice the pork and serve with the pickled watermelon and fried okra.


Sumac is a fruity, tart berry that grows wild in the Middle East and Italy. Dried ground sumac can be purchased at Middle Eastern markets, specialty food stores or online at 

Suggested Pairing

Lively, watermelon- scented rosé: 2012 Jean-Paul Brun Rosé d’Folie