I consider myself to be a very adventurous eater. Mind you, I'm not about to go head to head with Anthony Bourdain in a who-can-eat-the-grossest-thing competition, but I'll try just about anything once (so long as it doesn't contain mayonnaise.) At Thai restaurants, I'll order my food at a level 8 on the heat scale, which usually results in the server giving me that "are you sure?" expression. When dining out, if a chef recommends them, I'll take on tartares, polish off hot peppers, and even enjoy eel. Some of the best dishes that I have ever tasted are ones that took me out of my culinary comfort zone. When mom said "Try it. You might like it.", she really knew what she was talking about!
My stomach might be steel-coated when it comes to food, but alcohol is an entirely different story altogether. I learned this the hard way. For the most part, I am strictly a wine drinker. Oh sure, I'll have the obligatory Baileys and coffee apres-ski or the margarita in Mexico, but painful encounters with a sidecar (I still don't know what possessed me to order one) and multiple mojitos taught me a lesson that will be tough to forget. Therefore, when I untwist the cap of the rum, brandy, or Grand Marnier bottles at home, chances are pretty good that they are just part of my latest recipe.
With regards to cooking and baking, a little bit of alcohol goes a long way. Simmering some Kahlua with sugar and water creates a coffee-flavored simple syrup for a chocolate cake. Adding a few tablespoons of brandy as you saute wild mushrooms gives them a slightly rich twist. Marinating meats in various wine and spirit reductions helps to tenderize and infuses them with flavor. While technically, I know, sake is a wine, its proof level is high enough for me to reserve it for kitchen creations. In this recipe, a simple marinade of 3 items works wonders on the pork tenderloin. Paired with juicy grilled pineapple (if you've never grilled fruit before, you're missing out), and charred red onions, you've got a meal that is salty, sweet, sour, juicy, crunchy, and healthy to boot!Here are a few extra tips for these sake-soaked skewers:
- Mirin is sweet rice wine, and it can be found in the Asian foods section of your grocery store. Be sure not to confuse it with rice wine vinegar, which has a very different flavor profile!
- Sake or rice wine can likely be found in the wine section of most grocery stores, and it is usually located with some of the other international wines. Don't spend a fortune on the sake, as it is just being used as part of a marinade and for tenderizing the pork.
- This marinade would work well with any number of proteins. Cubed chicken breasts or thighs, beef tenderloin or sirloin, or even firm fish like salmon, halibut, or tuna would be good choices for pork substitutes.
- If you don't have an outdoor grill, you can prepare these over an indoor grillpan.
- If your skewers are not long enough to support 3 pieces of each component, then use 12 skewers with 2 pieces of each component instead.
- Serve these kabobs over steam brown rice, rice pilaf, or couscous.
Sake-Soy Marinated Pork and Pineapple Kebabs
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup sake
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 24 pieces
24 (1-inch) pieces red onion
24 (1-inch) cubes pineapple
In a small saucepan, combine the mirin, sake, and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Cook the mixture over medium heat until it has reduced to about 3/4 cup, 8 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat, transfer it to a medium bowl, and cool completely.
Add the pork to the cooled marinade and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.
Heat a grill over medium-high heat.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork from the bowl, reserving the marinade. Transfer the marinade to a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool slightly.
Thread 3 pork cubes, 3 red onion pieces, and 3 pineapple cubes alternately onto each of 8 skewers. Place the kebabs on a grill rack coated with cooking spray and grill until lightly charred, about 3 minutes per side, basting frequently with the reserved marinade.