Just across the street from Indiana's Decatur County Courthouse – the one with the tree growing out of the courthouse tower – Stories Restaurant has been a local favorite for since the 1970s.
Inside, it’s all bustle and clamor as waitresses pour coffee, take orders and carry big trays laddened with the house made foods that make this a definite comfort food destination. There are platters of Beef Manhattans, boneless catfish, ham steak, accompaniments of mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, French fries and, for dessert, luscious looking pies (try the lemon meringue or the sugar cream – oh heck, try them all) made early that morning.
But as great as these dishes are, the best seller here is that Indiana specialty, breaded tenderloin.
Take a peek in the kitchen through the serving window and you’re likely to see pork tenderloins in the making – a process that includes trimming, cutting, tenderizing, marinating, breading and frying the approximately 500 pounds of Canadian pork loins that are consumed here every week.
The family run restaurant keeps the secret breading recipe a secret owner Don Storie tells people who ask but he did give a few hints to Joanne Raetz Stuttgen and my friend Jolene Ketzenberger , the food editor at the Indianapolis Star. The two authored The Indiana Cookbook (Terrace Books 2010; $24.95), a wonderful cookbook with recipes culled from many of Indiana’s small town cafes including Stories.
But before I share their recipe, I need to get back to the history of the courthouse tree. The courthouse itself was built in 1853 but it wasn’t until the 1870s that Greensburg citizens noticed what looked like saplings sprouting from the top of the tower. They were right. By the mid 1880s, five trees were growing from the tower, about 100-feet from the courthouse ground.
A steeplejack (what a fantastic old time sounding occupation) climbed the tower, removing three of the trees. Of the two remaining, one was rather sickly but the other flourished, growing to a height of 15-feet with a circumference of 5-feet. But surprisingly, it died. Fortunately, the remaining tree became more robust, growing and also producing an offspring so that now two trees rise above the tower – a monument somehow of how nature and mankind can harmoniously co-exist.
Breaded Pork Tenderloin
1 to 1 ½ pounds fresh Canadian back loin
4 cps 2 percent milk
Alternative to “Secret Recipe” Breading Mix (see recipe below) or you can use Mary Kay Breading made by Marion-Kay Spices, a 90-year old company located in Brownstown, Indiana
Alternative to “Secret Recipe) Breading Mix
1 cup flour
1 cup McCormick Golden Dipt Extra Crispy Chicken Fry Mix
1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard (optional)
Trim off the side strap of the loin, picking out bone bits. Slice off the ends of the loin and set aside for use as baked pork. Cut the remaining loin into slices 1 ½ inch to 2 inches thick or 5 to 6 ounces in weight.
Beat eggs and milk together in large bowl and set aside.
Place “secret breading mix” in a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Using the flat side of a meat cleaver, press each slice to flatten slightly and then pound with a meat tenderizer. Pierce a slice of tenderloin three times on one side, then flip it and pierce three times on the other side.
Dip a slice of tenderloin in the milk and egg mixture, then let it marinate up to 2 hours.
Heat 3 to 5 inches of oil I a deep frying pan to 350° F.
Remove loin from milk and egg bath and place it in the breading mix. Press the loin in the breading mix and then flip over to do the same. Slide carefully into the heated oil making sure breading doesn’t fall off.
Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until gold brown.