Spicy pork kebabs, fast enough for a weeknight – The Denver Post

By Melissa Clark, The New York Times

There are few meals more primally satisfying than charred meat on a stick. Whether turned on a spit or threaded onto a skewer, the meat browns at the edges and sucks up the smoke, emerging, at its best, crisp, tender and very juicy, to be seasoned with salt and eaten with great relish.

Any kind of meat works, but one of the best and most versatile is brawny pork shoulder (also called pork butt for reasons having to do with archaic language, not anatomy).

It’s marbled with white veins of collagen and fat, and, if you cook it low and slow for many hours, it will turn spoonably soft, collapsing into a pile when you touch it. (Think pulled pork, drenched in sticky, spicy sauce and scooped onto a fluffy roll.)

If you cook it fast and hot, just until the outside singes but the inside stays just a little pink, you’ll get firmer meat that’s just as succulent, if slightly chewier. And this is how it goes with these pork kebabs, seasoned with cumin, fennel, coriander and plenty of garlic and chile.

These kebabs are easy to make and fast enough for a weeknight. You can marinate the pork for as little as 30 minutes, which is just enough time to light the grill and toss together a salad. Or, if you’re planning ahead, the pork can marinate for up to 24 hours.

Best yet, everything for the marinade is thrown in the blender, meaning you don’t have to chop. Nor do the spices need toasting or grinding. The grill takes care of the toasting, and the blender bruises them enough to release their flavor without eliminating their crunchy texture.

If pork isn’t on your menu, the marinade works with any chunks of meat (chicken thighs, beef, lamb). You can even try it on dense fish like swordfish or salmon. Just watch carefully so nothing dries out. High, direct heat is your friend here.

And if you’re grill-less, you can broil the meat, in which case you don’t even need to thread the pieces on skewers. Lay the meat out on a rimmed baking sheet, and flip it halfway through cooking.

However you end up cooking this recipe, just be sure to garnish with slices of onion and herbs. Their bright freshness is a fine way to highlight the smoky depths of the char.

Spicy Pork Kebabs With Fennel, Cumin and Red Onion

Total time: 30 minutes, plus marinating

Yield: 4 servings

Tara Donne, The New York Times

Ingredients for a marinade for spicy pork kebabs. Cumin, coriander and fennel seeds add flavor to the marinade. Food Stylist: Chris Lanier.


  • 1 3/4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lime, plus some wedges for serving
  • 1/4 cup cilantro or basil, leaves and tender stems, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 jalapeño or other green chile, seeded if desired
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 small red onion, sliced, for serving


1. Season pork lightly with kosher salt and put it in a bowl or resealable bag.

2. Juice the lime into a blender or food processor and add cilantro, fish sauce, garlic, jalapeño and honey. Blend until the jalapeño and garlic are puréed, then add fennel, cumin, coriander seeds and pulse four or five times to bruise the spices and mix them in.