Mon Jun 30, 2008
The kabob craziness continues, with the second installment featuring pork and mango skewers. This recipe featured a lot of firsts at the Meatwave; the first dry rubbed kabob, the first grilled mangoes, and the first grilled green onions. In the spirit of always wanting to find something new to throw on the grill, these kabobs really captured my attention when I cozied up with one of many pieces of grilling literature on a rainy evening not far back.
My initial attraction to this recipe was the use of the dry rub. All kabobs I've made prior have all featured a wet marinade, which both imparts a lot of flavor into the meat and adds a little moisture, helping it remain juicy during cooking. So I wondered how a dry rubbed kabob would hold up. There was no doubt it would be bursting with flavor, since the rub would handle that part, but would it be as easy to grill up to the right doneness?
Like almost all of my pork kabobs, the tenderloin was my meat of choice here. I find the tenderloin is the perfect size for cubing, takes on flavor very well, and grills up nice and, well, tender. So I cubed a 1 1/2 lb tenderloin and applied the rub. The recipe didn't call for any resting to occur, but I know from experience that dry rubbed meat benefits nicely from any overnight stint in the fridge, so that's where the pork went until the next afternoon.
I'm a big fan of onions on my kabobs, they caramelize nicely on the grill, adding a sweetness to the stick. Onions sometimes tend to be fussy though, breaking easily while skewering, or softening too much while cooking and falling off, so when I saw green onions in the recipe, I had one of those, "Man, why haven't I thought of this...I'm so stupid," moments. The dense white and light green bottoms of the green onions ended up being perfect for skewering, and then the top parts went into marinades for other kabobs.
Along similar lines as the green onions were the mangoes. The fiancee loves the mango, and eats it all types of ways, but never once have we grilled one. We've grilled all types of fruits before; pineapple, pears, peaches, etc. and I could only assume that grilling would release a new awesomeness in the mangoes as it had with past fruits. With these three new grilling ventures all threaded onto skewers, it was time to take them to heat.
As they grilled, I watched both the mango and green onion caramelize with goodness, but at the same time the pork kept looking drier and drier. After about 3 minutes of each side, these were done. Eaten by themselves, it tasted exactly like they looked. Grilling brought out a sweetness from the onion, intensified the mango, and dried out the pork. But alas, this recipe also called for a sauce to be poured on top of skewers before serving, and add that into the equation and everything changes. Letting the pork seep in the sauce for a minute after cooking brought it back to life, and balanced the smokey flavor of the rub with a fresh tartness that combined perfectly. When I could manage getting the pork, mango, and onion all in one bite, it really came alive, adding sweetness into the equation.
In the end, the dry rubbed skewers could not hold up on their own, needing a sauce to bring back juices lost during cooking. If I were to do them again, I'd definitely brine the meat first to ensure it retains its moisture. Although I'll probably be more likely to stick with a wet marinade for the meat, you'll definitely be seeing green onions and mangoes gracing my kabobs a lot in the future.
Pork & Mango Skewers
Adapted from Weber's Real Grilling by Jamie Purviance
For the Rub
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
For the Sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon hot chili-garlic sauce
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat and silver skin and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 ripe mangos, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 green onions, white and light green parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes prior to use
Combine the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl. Place the pork cubes in a large Ziploc bag, pour in the rub, seal the bag, and toss to thoroughly coat pork with the rub. Reseal the bag, removing as much air as possible, and place in the fridge for 1 hour to overnight.
Light 1 chimney full of charcoal and when the charcoal is all lit and covered in gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the charcoal grate.
In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce.
Thread the pork, mangoes, and green onions alternatively onto the skewers, leaving a little room between the ingredients.
Grill the skewers until the pork is barely pink in the center, about 3 minutes per each of the four sides.
Place skewers on a platter and spoon about half of the sauce over the top. Serve immediately with the remaining sauce on the side.