Consider pork satay this Memorial Day
New York Times
Pork Satay With Thai Spices and Peanut Sauce is simple: Slice the meat, marinate it, grill. The prep work can be done up to a day in advance, so the cooking is easy.
With Memorial Day coming up this weekend, I'm ready to grill. But I have little skewers on my mind, not burgers or sausages or ribs.
I became a fan of satay long before ever visiting Southeast Asia. Some years ago, there was a popular Thai restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., that served satay. We'd have a few rounds of satay skewers as appetizers before moving on to more substantial and much spicier fare.
Indeed, it was there I learned the rudiments of Thai cuisine — from a diner's point of view, that is. Traditional green papaya salad, pad Thai, larb, fiery red curries and shellfish stews were mainstays of the menu. But we always began with satay.
It is nothing more than thinly sliced meat on a skewer. But the marinade — a rich and flavorful one, with ginger, coconut milk and spices — is the key to good satay.
For accompaniments, Thai-style satay is nearly always served with a zesty peanut dipping sauce and a spoonful of refreshing cucumber relish. Satay is versatile; it can be a savory snack with drinks, or served with steamed rice for a light meal.
Satay at home is very doable; slice the meat, marinate it, grill. You can do the prep work hours ahead, even a day in advance, so the cooking is easy. A giant grill is not necessary — a small hibachi-type, store-bought or makeshift, is the way to go. (For that matter, a stovetop grill or broiler is fine, too.)
Take care when cutting the meat. You want thin rectangular slices, which, when threaded onto skewers, lie flat. This allows the satay to cook quickly. It is especially important if using very lean meat like pork loin; thicker pieces would simply dry out before they were done. I prefer to use pork cuts that have some marbling, like shoulder.
Satay is by no means purely Thai; it is popular throughout neighboring Indonesia. But if you ever find yourself in Bangkok, where it can be 95 degrees and steamy at midnight, a cold beer and satay skewers straight from little charcoal grills can be found on any corner, a great boon for a weary traveler.
Wine pairings for Thai dishes: It's not easy to pair wines with Thai-inflected dishes. The pungent sweet, sour, spicy and salty flavors often overpower or neutralize the more delicate flavors in wine. The exceptions are often wines with lively acidity, especially if they have a touch of sweetness. For this satay, I would think first of German spatlese rieslings. Good alternatives may include pinot gris from Alsace, or you could try a dry Provencal rose, a dry, herbal white like a gruner veltliner, or a sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley.
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Pork Satay With Thai Spices and Peanut Sauce
For the skewers:
1 ½ pounds pork loin, tenderloin or shoulder, sliced into thin rectangles (¼ inch by 1 inch by 2 inches; you should have about 24 pieces)
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
3 tablespoons chopped lemongrass
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ cup coconut milk
Cilantro and basil leaves, for garnish (optional)
For the cucumbers:
1 pound Persian or Japanese cucumbers, peeled, halved and cut into ¼-inch slices
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 small shallots thinly sliced, about ¼ cup
2 fresh Thai or serrano chiles, sliced into rounds
For the peanut sauce:
1 cup dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice, more to taste
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
½ cup coconut milk
Prepare the skewers: Put pork in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, fish sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar and coconut milk, and pour over meat. Toss with your hands to coat well. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Meanwhile, soak 12 bamboo skewers in water.
Prepare the cucumbers: Put cucumbers in a mixing bowl and season with salt. Add lime juice, sugar, shallots and chiles and toss to coat. Let stand for 15 minutes. Check seasoning, then transfer to a serving dish.
Prepare the peanut sauce: Pulse the peanuts briefly in a food processor just until finely ground. Add the garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, cayenne and coconut milk, and process until well pureed. Transfer to a bowl, then taste and adjust seasoning. Thin a bit with lime juice or water as desired.
Thread 2 slices of pork onto each bamboo skewer, keeping the meat as flat as possible. Grill over hot coals, under the broiler or on a stovetop grill pan for 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through and lightly browned. Transfer to a platter and garnish with cilantro and basil leaves. Serve with cucumber relish and peanut sauce.
Makes 12 small skewers.
Source: New York Times