Mojo-Marinated Pork Kebabs With Mango
If you ever find yourself married to a Filipino, like I do, you'll quickly learn how proud they are of their nation's mangos—a trip to the Asian market rarely ends without us bringing home at least one bag of dried mangos from the Philippines. So it's a point of contention in our marriage that I'm just not that keen on this one particular fruit. As much as my wife would love a steady influx sweet, orange-fleshed mangos, I hardly ever cook with them. That means when I do, it's considered a treat, which may have been one reason these mojo-marinated pork kebabs with mango went over pretty well.
I go back and forth on my choice cut of pork for kebabs. I've been into using pork shoulder more and more often for its great flavor, but that benefit comes at the price of the labor required to remove the excessive fat and sinew to ensure the meat doesn't end up a chewy hot mess. On the other hand, there's lean pork loin, which is super easy and quick to cube for skewers, but it's comparatively flavorless and the almost total absence of fat means it's also more prone to overcooking and drying out.
When I do choose to go with the loin—which I did here because I was banking on the intense mojo marinade to pick the slack in the flavor department—I like to employ a brine to help give the meat a boost in moisture. For the six one-and-half inch cuts of pork I had, I submerged them in a brine made up of two quarts water, a third cup kosher salt, and one quarter cup sugar, and let them rest in there for 60 minutes.
As the meat brined, I put together the mojo sauce. Mojo can come in many different forms, but it's the Cuban version that I know best and love. It starts out with an ass load of garlic—six cloves here—mashed into a paste in a mortar and pestle along with a little salt.
Then the garlic gets added to a potent mixture of juice from sour oranges—I you can't get sour oranges, this can be approximated but using equal parts lime and orange juice—extra virgin olive oil, oregano, and cumin. The resulting sauce is great as condiment and also does wonders as a marinade, as proven by this incredible mojo chicken.
Once the pork slices were done brining, I cut them into one and half-inch cubes and married them with the mojo sauce. I let the two mingle together for a couple hours in the fridge, which was long enough for the meat to absorb a lot of flavor without it becoming mushy from the acidic marinade.
Working with the mango for these skewers kind of just increased my dislike for the fruit. Unlike pineapple, for which I've worked with enough to have a peeling and dicing process down pat, I struggled with peeling the slippery fruity, then correctly slicing out the core, and finally getting it into uniform cubes. I did my best though, and I'm sure more seasoned mango-ists out there will suffer none of the ill effects my novice produced.
With what I considered to be the hard part done, I focused on the main attraction—the grill. With some added insurance thanks to the brine, I confidently placed the skewers over direct heat and let them develop a nice sear on all sides. With some inexact measurement of doneness by prodding at the pork, I felt good that the meat was still tender and not dried out by the time the kebabs were beautifully browned.
Luckily I was right and the pork was done to a decent medium-well, which meant it retained a fair amount of moisture and its light natural flavor. Pork-y flavor wasn't what these kebabs were about though. It was the mojo that packed a punch, giving the meat a sharp garlicky bite, bright acidity, and a little earthiness—a flavor combo that was perfectly suited to the fruity chunks of ripe mango. So despite my misgivings with mango, I have to relent and admit that in this particular application, I couldn't imagine a better player to fill the role.
Mojo-Marinated Pork Kebabs With Mango
- Yield 6 servings
- Prep 30 Minutes
- Inactive 1 Hour 30 Minutes
- Cook 10 Minutes
- Total 2 Hours 10 Minutes
- For the Brined Pork
- 2 quarts ice-cold water
- 1/3 cup kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 pounds center-cut pork chops, 1 1/2 inches thick each
- For the Mojo Marinade
- 2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic (about 6 medium cloves)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1/2 cup fresh sour orange juice, or 1/4 cup lime juice mixed with 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the Skewers
- 2 whole mangos, slightly underripe, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 1/2-inch squares
- Wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to use
- For the Brine: In a large bowl, whisk together water, salt, and sugar until solids are dissolved. Place pork chops in brine and refrigerate at least 30 and up to 60 minutes.
- For the Marinade: Place garlic in a mortar and pestle. Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt and work into a smooth paste. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, sour orange juice, oil, oregano, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper.
- For the Skewers: Remove pork chops from brine and pat dry. Cut pork into 1 1/2-inch cubes, trimming any large pieces of excess fat and discarding bones. Place pork cubes in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour in marinade and seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Place in refrigerator and marinate for at least 1 and up to 5 hours.
- Thread pork onto skewers, alternating with mango cubes.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all 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 until well browned on all sides and center of pork registers between 140-145°F on an instant-read thermometer, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer skewers to platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.