Molasses Glazed Pork: I don’t know whether to say I am getting closer to a standard style kabob or further away…
This is Day 4 in my weeklong Kabob Party. Up until today I have limited my skewers to one ingredient and brought a bit of razzmatazz to the stick with well-chosen condiments. But not today. This party is getting fully integrated and it’s starting to rock!
We started the series quietly with a Turkish Style Lamb Kabob made with ground meat and exotic spices; it was served alongside a soft herb salad. Next up we threaded Brined & Marinated Shrimp onto wooden skewers. I showed you my trick to keep those little shrimpies in line too. No more twirling all over the skewer. This version comes with a tangy tomatillo and avocado salsa.
Just yesterday we had summer skewers at their simplest. Italian Style Chicken Spiedini with a Cucumber, Arugula and Olive Tapenade. Truly an al fresco treat.
It’s not that I am a timid party guest, but I have to admit that one-ingredient simple skewers are how I most typically make kabobs. I like the control in cooking that comes from having some uniformity on the stick.
But I hear the boom of the bass. I feel the rhythm in the vibe. I know there are many of you who believe it’s not a Kabob Party without a little mingling! You are such a naughty bunch! You like the idea of having a few select beauties stuck on your stick!
And who can blame you? Variety is indeed the spice of life. But if you prefer to go this rock & roll route, you’ll need a little pre-planning. Don’t blame me for any hanky-panky. So choose ingredients that are compatible and can be cooked together in a manner that doesn’t leave half the stick limp and the other smoldering.
Remember, meat comes to cooked more quickly than most vegetables. So it’s best to pace yourself because I am sure we have all met a vegetable or two that needs quite a bit of cooking before you skewer it. I recommend you give these veggies all of your attention. With some patience, you could even cut them a bit smaller than the meat. A little fore-prep can go a long way. The meat will get cooked. It always does.
Still, with every rule, there are exceptions. So check your sticks and see what’s what. Fennel bulb is a prime example in my opinion. I like it a bit charred from the flame, yet still crunchy. So use your brain and your palette when choosing companions. Always play it safe, your goal is uniform cooking– so that all the elements on the stick hit completion at the same time.
I have 2 hints about how to best achieve this. When threading skewers with just one ingredient I usually recommend that you pack the skewers tightly. Cook them quickly and get them off the grill. Especially meats that are best not cooked all the way through. But this is just not so with kabobs where different items are skewered onto the stick next to each other. In this instance, I say don’t press the pieces tightly together. A bit of breathing room makes for even cooking.
Speaking of breathing room. Don’t just cram the kabobs right next to each other on the grate either. They will just get all hot and bothered and you will steam the food rather than grill it. Everyone will end up feeling frustrated!
But the single most important element in assuring an evenly cooked kabob is the fire itself. Oftentimes charcoal grills can have hot spots. To combat this, hold your horses big boy; wait until the coals are uniformly gray and no longer smoking. Then spread the coals out in an even layer before you place the food on the rack. You may still be faced with some hot and not so hot spots, that’s just the way some fires are. Maybe the coals are old, maybe it was a long day. Maybe the kids are in the next room… So pay attention and nimbly manipulate the skewers as needed, you’ll find the sweet spot.
Today’s skewer contains 3 very different ingredients. I am going to prep each ingredient so that it will be at its best after it leaves the grill and heads to the plate.
Pork: I like pork juicy and tender, so I have chosen to brine mine. I threw the pork into the brine after it was cut into 1 1/2” chunks. So 4 hours seems like enough time in the brine to get the job done. I also like my pork a bit pink on the inside. Not raw pink! But if this makes you squeamish, cut the chunks a bit smaller. This is far better than cooking them longer. Trust me.
Jalapeno Peppers: I like mine with some heat and some crunch. So I am leaving them raw before I thread them onto the skewers. I am also halving them so that I get plenty of surfaces to get good and charred, but not so small that they cook all the way through and loose too much of that heat. You could adjust this method by using pickled jalapeno cut into whatever size makes you comfortable.
Papaya: Here in Los Angeles the very large, less sweet Mexican variety is plentiful. It’s a good choice for grilling because it tends to be a bit firmer. Pineapple, mango, or peaches would all make great substitutes in this particular recipe. Still, whatever you choose it should not be super ripe because 10 minutes on the grill could turn it to mush. Slightly under-ripe help, but so does cutting the chunks a bit bigger than the meat.
I am going to brush these skewers with a spicy-sweet molasses glaze before they hit the flames. It will add some depth to the zip, and will also help unify all the flavors and textures in these kabobs. This version comes from Martha Stewart Living and it is super versatile and very easy to pinch and play with, depending on what’s in your pantry.
There you go. I am all finished here. I see the party is in full force. I guess we can safely call this a homerun…
Why are you looking at me like that? I’d say close your mouth, but these kabobs are looking for a soft place to land.
Cobbled together from Martha Stewart Living and other sources
- 2 T molasses
- 3 clv garlic, minced
- 2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
- 1 one-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
- 1⁄2 t crushed red pepper flakes
- 3⁄4 c extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2 T sea salt
- 1 pn freshly ground black pepper
- 6 c water
- 1⁄4 c sugar
- 3 T kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 T whole black peppercorns
- 1 T whole cloves
- 3 clv garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 3⁄4 lb pork loin, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
- 1⁄2 large Mexican papaya, quite firm and not too ripe peeled seeded and cut into 2 inch chunks
- 16 jalapeno peppers, sliced lengthwise and seeded
- pepper to taste
- olive oil, as needed for grill
To make the molasses glaze: Whisk molasses, minced garlic, chiles, ginger, pepper flakes, and oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Keep sealed at room temperature for up to one week.
To brine the pork: Combine water, sugar, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, and smashed garlic in a non-reactive bowl. Add pork, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Drain and set aside.
To make the kabobs: Thread alternating pieces of pork, jalapeno halves, and papaya chunks onto 8 skewers. Brush with molasses glaze and season with salt an pepper.
To grill the kabobs: Arrange skewers, off direct heat, on a hot grill. Cook, rotating often and brushing with more glaze or olive oil as needed to prevent sticking. The pork should be nearly cooked through, barely pink and still juicy in the center, about 10–12 minutes total cooking.
Remove the skewers from the grill, taking care to keep the softened papaya from slipping off. Brush them one more time with the glaze if you like and allow them to rest about five minutes before serving.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD