Saturday, June 27, 2009

165. Grilled Pork Kebabs with Manchamantel Sauce (p. 483)

Becky, my good friend from college, and her boyfriend, Brian, came over for lunch a couple of weekends ago to visit with my son, Jack. I haven't seen Becky in months, and I wanted to make something special for her and Brian. That, and I was really excited to have an opportunity to cook for meat-eaters. I've been wanting to make this recipe ever since Teena made it last month. It was not a disappointment.

This recipe was a fair amount of work spanning over two days because it required marinating the pork and making the sauce.

First, the marinade. I started by toasting some dried chilies in a cast iron skillet for about a minute. The Book calls for dried ancho chilies, but I used the dried red chilies that I had leftover from the Shrimp in Adobo Sauce I made a while ago. (That recipe called for anchos, too, but the dried red chilies worked out fine in that dish, so I figured they'd be OK in this dish, too.) It's really amazing how just a few seconds in a hot skillet makes the dry, brittle chilies plump and pliable. I slit the chilies up the middle, removed the seeds and ribs, and covered them in boiling water to soften them up some more. (I prepared enough of the dried chilies for the marinade and for the sauce, which also calls for them.)

I combined the chilies, which I had coarsely chopped, with some water, chopped onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, cumin, salt, crushed peppercorns, olive oil and lemon juice in the blender. I ran out of ground cumin when I made my Green Bean Salad with Pumpkin Seed Dressing, but I was relieved to find some whole cumin seeds kicking around in my spice rack. Since I needed to crush the peppercorns anyway, I pulled out my mortar and pestle and ground up the cumin seeds old-school. Pre-ground spices are a real convenience, but there's nothing like fresh-ground for intense flavor and aroma. I don't know that I'd do it all the time, but there really is a difference.

I poured the marinade in a zip top bag and added the pork kebabs. The Book calls for 2 1/4 pounds of pork tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes. After wandering around somewhat aimlessly in front of the pork case at McKinnon's butcher shop, I asked for some help. The butcher I talked with told me that I wanted to use thick-cut, boneless pork chops and cut them into pieces. Not sure if he sold me a bill of goods, but the pork chops worked out well, and I was satisfied. The Book says that the pork needs to marinate for at least six hours and up to 24. I put the pork in the marinade the day before and left it in the refrigerator overnight.

Next, I moved on to the manchamantal sauce. According to The Book, manchamantel is Spanish for "tablecloth stainer." With its deep rust color, I'm sure that the name is well deserved. We ate outside, however, and the tablecloths were safely tucked away in the linen closet.

The Book suggests making the sauce in advance because it takes a little bit of time. Considering that most of the recipes take me longer than the start-to-finish times listed in The Book, I wasn't going to ignore a suggestion like that, and I made it the night before. First, I cooked some garlic and chopped onion in oil until the onions were golden. I added some sugar and vinegar and cooked it a little while longer. Next I put the onion mixture into the blender with the rest of the chilies, some water, some chopped fresh pineapple (yeah, I cut up a whole fresh pineapple ... it's a little bit of work, but worth it), a banana, and some cinnamon, cloves and a bit more sugar. I blended it up until it was smooth (crossing my fingers the whole time in hopes that the noisy blender wouldn't wake my sleeping son). I put the sauce in the refrigerator.

The next day, I drained the pork and discarded the marinade. I threaded the pork kebabs on bamboo skewers, alternating with large pineapple chunks and wedges of red onion. I put the kebabs on the grill and cooked them until the pork was done.

This wasn't the quickest recipe, but it wasn't hard and it was pretty tasty. I think that I overcooked the pork just a bit ... it was a little tough. But, just the same, it was good. The grilled pineapple was excellent. The red onions, though, didn't cook as quickly as the pork and pineapple, so they were a little underdone. The machamantal sauce was great. I was a little apprehensive about combining chilies, onions, pineapple and banana, but it really works. The sauce was sweet and sour and a little spicy and smoky. The flavors all blended well, but I was still able to sense a hint here and there of the pineapple and banana flavor. It was like a tropical barbecue sauce. It was a perfect match for the pork, but it also worked well with the grilled chicken that I'll post about next.

Date Cooked: June 13, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A-

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