The trouble with lean meats such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pork tenderloin is that they lack the flavor of their higher-fat cousins.
But that doesn’t mean flavor can’t be added.
Flavoring pastes are a particularly handy method of doing so, because they are easy to apply, stick to the meat well and contain an optimal balance of moisture to produce meat that is neither dry nor mushy.
Pastes can be made by pureeing strongly flavored ingredients, usually along with some seasonings and just enough oil or other liquid to achieve a consistency that spreads easily, but will stick to the food. Meat that has been coated (pat it dry first) should be covered and refrigerated for at least an hour and up to 24.
The soft texture of roasted garlic or caramelized onions makes a great base for a flavoring paste, especially when combined with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil. Consider adding chopped fresh thyme, rosemary or any herb that strikes your fancy.
Miso, a fermented soybean paste with the consistency of peanut butter, also makes an outstanding base for a flavoring paste. Several varieties of miso are available, with the lighter colors having the mildest and sweetest flavor. Note that miso can be quite salty, so a little goes a long way.
Look for miso with other refrigerated soy products at most larger grocers.
Miso will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for quite a long time (check the date on the package). Among other things, leftover miso can be used as a base for soups, salad dressings or even served on its own as a condiment.
Orange-miso pork tenderloin is prepared using a paste made with sweet white miso, orange juice, minced garlic and ginger. Serve with steamed snow peas or a cold wild rice and red pepper salad tossed in a rice vinegar and sesame oil dressing.