SPANISH PORK SKEWERS
(This recipe is part of “A Tapas Experience.”)
My First Tapas-Crawl
I was about to experience my first tapas-crawl on a clear evening in the month of September 2015. You may not be familiar with a tapas-crawl, neither was I. It is a gastronomical adventure where you spend several hours hopping from one Spanish bar to another. This provides someone the opportunity to sample many different small plates while enjoying a glass of wine at each tapas bar. It would be quite the achievement if you were to leave sober or hungry. I would have to say that when I participated in the tapas-crawl, the Spanish Pork Skewers were my favored nibble of the night. That is where my story begins, and the recipe on this post is where it continues.
But first, day eight of our 42-day hike across northern Spain was going to be a good, long hike on foot, 27 kilometers to be exact. We were traveling from Los Arcos to Logroño, Spain. As we were leaving Los Arcos, we passed by a cemetery with an epitaph on its entrance that read:
Yo que fui lo que tu eres, tu seras lo que yo soi
I, who once was what you are, you will be what I am.
A Word to the Wise Along the Camino
Please indulge me while I become a little philosophical. The inscription was a wake-up call for me while I was shaking the cobwebs out of my head from the prior night’s sleep. These words communicated a profound life message, a weighty “word to the wise.” Contemplation is abundant on the Camino de Santiago and I certainly did my share of contemplating. There is time for conversing with other pilgrims, building relationships with people from around the world, or putting in your earbuds and getting lost in the music. Mostly, though, it is you and your thoughts, and a lot of them.
My daughter once told me that when she would get stressed out about her job, the demands of others, unrealistic expectations, or life in general, she would go out and just sit in the midst of a cemetery. “The people lying there in those graves,” she would remind herself, “they couldn’t care less now about all the pressures of this life.” We get so caught up in life’s stresses, become restless with fear and forget what is legitimately meaningful in the here and now. There are times where it is imperative to get away from the hustle and bustle of our crazy existence and let time stand still. It is in this space of quietness that life gives us the gift of clarity. It is where truth and reality come into focus. I must learn to relax and stay awhile to receive the full benefit of this space. Okay, that’s enough of the reflective side of life for the moment. Now back to my days in Logroño.
Calle del Laurel – Tapas-Crawl & Spanish Pork Tapas
After traveling through many small villages over the past few days, I was looking forward to staying a couple of nights in a larger city. Just a few steps away from our hotel was a little-known treasure hidden in a corner of the old city of Logroño. Apparently, it is one of the best places in Spain for tapas-crawling. Calle del Laurel hosts about 50 small tapas bars within a couple of blocks.
Around nine or ten o’clock at night, these narrow, medieval streets become abuzz with a ravenous horde of people. They’re looking for an assortment of bite-size fare to indulge their appetite. Every tiny bar (and I do mean tiny, maybe the size of an extra-large walk-in closet) specializes in one or two Tapas (some maybe more). As you push your way through the throng from one bar to another, it is an experience that will gratify your palate with a diversity of textures and tastes. It also will remove the demand for “my” space that we Americans all have. Normally, I am not crazy about crowds that are packed in like sardines. But for some reason, the charm of this scene captured my affection and enticed me to continue. The brouhaha in this environment can easily continue until the early morning hours.
Bar Págano – Hundreds of Spanish Pork Skewers
There is one bar, Bar Páganos, where I enjoyed Spanish Pork Skewers for the first time. The owner of the bar stood next to a long charcoal grill skillfully turning hundreds of metal skewers with his bare hands. The skewered pork still sizzling from the grill was some of the most tender portions of meat I have tasted. When I tried to find a recipe for these Spanish Pork Skewers, I came across one from www.womanandhome.com. The recipe that I have here on my blog is an adaptation of the one found at that site.
Spices and Mojo Picón – A Perfect Compliment to Spanish Pork Skewers
It is the array of spices in the dry rub that makes this pork so delicious and tender. Toasting the cumin and coriander seeds before you grind them will add to the complexity of the flavors. You can use ground cumin and coriander out of the jar if you would rather. I find, though, the smokiness from toasting them, enhances the overall flavor. I prefer the smoky paprika (pimentón) to the sweet kind. Also, I always add a bit more to any dish I am making because I love the piquancy it gives the finished product.
Cubing the pork in consistent bite size pieces allows the pork to cook at the same pace. For the particular photos on this post, I used an indoor electric grill, and they turned out perfect. An outside grill is still my preference, as there is something about grilling-out that you just cannot beat.
You could eat these Spanish Pork Skewers by themselves because they are incredibly tender and flavorful. Once you add the sauce, Mojo Picón, though, they will probably never feel complete without it. I did not veer from the above-noted website recipe for this specific sauce. The recipe was perfect as written. Although, I did increase the spices more for my taste.
View the full “Tapas Experience” here.
- According to www.benidorm-spotlight.com, the word ‘tapas’ comes from the Spanish verb ‘tapar’ (to cover). Their illustrious history goes back to ancient days.In Andalucia, for example, the traditional glass of sherry would be covered with a slice of bread. A simple and practical way to keep fruit flies and other flying insects from helping themselves to that precious liquid. Bartenders began adding a slice of meat, usually either ham or chorizo, something salty to induce more thirst and yes, folks, sell more sherry. And thus, tapas were born, gradually becoming as important as the drink (although that’s debatable)!
- In much of northern Spain, tapas are called ‘pinchos’ (or ‘pintxos’ in the Basque region). Thus named because of the tooth-pick (pincho) running through them. It prevents the topping from falling off the bread.
- According to www.aswesawit.com, Spanish culture includes a lot of bar hopping in the early evening. They even have a word for it: tapear. Because they’ll get a free tapas at each one, locals generally only order one glass of wine per bar, then settle their tabs and head to the next.
- According to www.mobile-cuisine.com, the average American will eat the equivalent of 28 pigs in their lifetime. At the global level, pork is by far the most widely consumed meat.
A Tapas Experience
Spanish Pork Skewers
Spanish Pork Skewers grilled to perfection. The flavorful blend of spices along with a spicy Mojo Picón sauce for dipping makes this dish a favorite of Spanish Tapas.
- Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (prep & marinate)
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
- Yield: 16 skewers
- Category: Spanish Tapas
- 2 pounds pork fillet
- 2 teaspoons smoky paprika (pimentón)
- 2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic clove, finely chopped
- Drizzle of olive oil
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 16 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
- 1 slice white bread
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon dried crushed cayenne chilies
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon smoky paprika (pimentón)
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- Salt to taste
- Heat a small dry frying pan over high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the cumin and coriander seeds. Shake the pan to keep the seeds from burning. In about 1 minute they should release a toasted aroma. Remove from the pan and transfer them to a mortar and pestle to cool. Once cool, crush them slightly to release more flavor. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, you can put them in a plastic ziplock bag and pound them with a rolling pin or a meat mallet.
- Cut the pork fillet into 1-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Add the smoky paprika, cumin, and coriander, oregano, thyme, red onion, 4 cloves of garlic and salt/pepper. Drizzle the olive oil over the pork and massage it until the spices have coated the meat. Thread the cubes onto wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for at least 30 minutes. Place the skewers in a large plastic ziplock bag and let marinate at least one hour or overnight.
- While the pork is marinating, make the mojo picón. Heat a frying pan over medium heat with a small amount of olive oil. Add the bread and fry until brown on both sides. Remove and drain on a paper towel and tear it into pieces. Add 2 cloves of garlic, cayenne chilies, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (not toasted), paprika, salt and sherry vinegar. Process until somewhat smooth. Add the olive oil in a thin drizzle while it is still mixing. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- Once the meat has marinated, heat the grill to high. Remove the skewers from the marinade and grill the meat on both sides until slightly charred and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
- Serve with Mojo Picón on the side for dipping.
- Serving Size: 6
- Calories: 367
- Sugar: 1 g
- Sodium: 589
- Fat: 21 g
- Saturated Fat: 4 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 12 g
- Trans Fat: 1 g
- Carbohydrates: 15 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Protein: 33 g
- Cholesterol: 73 mg