Tue Apr 2, 2013
Hell yeah! I leave tonight for a nice long trip to Spain. It's been nearly four years since my last extended vacation out of the country, and over 14 years since I was last in Europe. Needless to say, I'm stoked. I even went back to read my old journals from my last European outing, and while I liked reminiscing about all that I saw, I was a little aghast that my backpacking buddy and I mainly sustained ourselves on pizza and pasta while in Spain—my modern day self could never go to San Sebastian without partaking in its culinary delights. With priorities changed, this trip will be decidedly different, and food culture is a top priority. In honor of my trip, and its mainly Andulician focus, I give you these pincho morunos, or "Moorish skewers."
You don't see too many skewers on the Meatwave, and there's a good reason. Although they're great when you have a lot of people over and need to grill quickly to order, they're also easy to overcook and all too often less impressive in taste than looks—rarely have I earned boasting rights from a skewered piece of meat. Luckily, there are some solutions to make skewers better.
First is a brine. For poultry and pork, I say brining is a must for skewers. Both meats turn dry, tough, and tasteless so quick that room for error with the small pieces that adorn skewers is huge. A brine adds extra moisture, which gives more wiggle room in cooking. For these skewers, I started with a whole pork tenderloin, soaked in a standard salt and sugar brine for one and half hours.
It's then good to go bigger than you might think when cubing meat to skewer. Cubes around 1 1/2 inches are a nice size that, like the brine, give you some extra leeway in grilling, since they'll take longer to cook through than smaller pieces of meat. The only downside is they're not really one bite—more like two—but my guests would prefer better meat than convenience.
In all honesty, I'm not that familiar with Spanish cooking. I do know it's incredibly diverse based on region, and these pinchos morunos take influence from the Moors in Southern Spain. The marinade is a heavily spiced—but not spicy—mixture with olive oil as a base. I let the cubed pork tenderloin sit in the marinade for two hours, although you can certainly go longer if you'd like.
These would normally be done in a small tapas style, but I went with a heftier serving using full-sized skewers. The meat was threaded on, but not tightly packed—some room between cubes is a good thing—and grilled over medium-high heat until just cooked through.
And there you have it, a pretty awesome skewer that packs an exotic, earthy spice on top of succulent and tender cubes of pork. The flavor was great, but it's also pretty strong, and I understand why one may prefer these in a smaller portion among many other plates. Still, it's a nice taste of Andalusia and just has me more pumped for what the next few weeks may have in store.
- Prep Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 2 Hours 30 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 3 Hours
- 4 servings
- For the Brine
- 2 quarts cold water
- 1/4 cup Kosher salt
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of silverskin and excess fat
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to use
- 1 lemon, sliced, for serving
- To make the brine, whisk salt and sugar in cold water until completely dissolved. Place tenderloin in brine and place in refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours.
- While pork is brining, mix together olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano, turmeric, salt, thyme, and black pepper in a small bowl.
- Remove tenderloin from brine. Pat dry with paper towel and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Place pork in a large resealable bag and pour in spice mixture. Seal bag and toss to thoroughly coat pork in marinade. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 1 to 2 hours.
- Remove pork from refrigerator and thread onto wooden skewers. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill skewers over high heat until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes total.
- Remove to a platter, let rest for 5 minutes, then serve with lemon wedges.