Store-bought seasoning blends and bottled sauces. Every home cook has their favorite brands and there is no shame in that. I am no exception. When pressed for time, some days I reach for a container of Chef Paul Prudhomme's Meat Magic and other days a bottle K.C. Masterpiece will do just fine. When correctly paired together, a high-quality store-bought spice blend and bottled sauce can be a busy cook's best time saver. That said, all serious cooks make the time to prepare their favorite homemade concoctions too. I am no exception, and, at any given time, if you peek into my pantry or refrigerator, you're bound to find a few that I keep on-hand.
Thinly-sliced, nicely-seasoned pork loin, threaded onto a skewer...
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme + a little granulated garlic, sea salt and pepper too. Quickly mix them all together and you've got a dynamite seasoning blend for pork -- it's great on the other white meat, poultry, and, vegetables too.
Pair it with my easy-to-make, fruity, apricot-mustard sauce (recipe below) and you've got the makings for all sorts of great grill-meals -- chops, ribs & kabobs. To be honest, it's a pleasant change-of-pace from the typical chile-powder-based blends that hook up with tomato-based barbecue sauces in the end to flavor our porcine and poultry. Everyone loves them, including me, but, let's face it, it's going to be a long, hot Summer -- why not plan to add something new to your grill-meal rotation. The unique seasoning-and-sauce combo I'm making today is just the ticket.
1 teaspoon each: dried parsley flakes, rubbed dalmatian sage, crushed rosemary, thyme leaves, granulated garlic powder and cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt
Tip from Mel: Don't throw those empty bottles of dried herbs and spices away. Hang onto them to use for your own concoctions!
In the late 1970's, two women, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins opened a small food shop in Manhattan named: The Silver Palate. For that period in history, they had an extremely unique concept: gourmet take-out meals, for all courses and all occasions. Their shop met with rave reviews and national acclaim, which was followed by The Silver Palate Cookbook, then a second book, The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. A line of specialty food products was then marketed to gourmet food shops across America, which made it possible for all of us cooks to enhance our own food using their condiments and sauces.
One of their products, Apricot-Mustard Sauce, became a staple in my pantry. When my boys were turning into hungry men, I was purchasing it several bottles at a time. I had been dabbling around in recipe development for a few years by then and was getting good at imitating recipes based upon the label. What I came up with is extremely close and when my husband said he liked mine better -- I stopped buying it!
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons apple juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon each, ground: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and sea salt
Assembling the Herbed Pork, Pepper & Onion Skewers:
1 1/2 pounds pork loin, sliced into 32 slightly-less than 1/8" pieces, 4 slices per 8" skewer (Note: I do not trim any of the thin layer of fat from the bottom of the loin to make these skewers. It browns nicely and adds flavor too, but, that choice is yours.)
Simon & Garfunkel seasoning, from above recipe
2 each: orange and yellow sweet bell peppers, sliced into 1" squares (Note: I like the subtle flavor and the colors of the orange and yellow peppers with the apricot-mustard sauce instead of the bolder green and red bell peppers, but, that choice is yours.)
1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1" squares
8 hot dog rolls, or, 4 cups steamed white rice
apricot-mustard sauce, from above recipe, for drizzling on finished sandwiches or meals
To assemble each of 8, 8" bamboo skewers, season tops of 4 slices of pork with seasoning blend. Fold one slice of pork in half, loosely roll it up and thread it onto a skewer, followed by one slice each of orange pepper, onion and yellow pepper. Continue alternating pork, and vegetables until each skewer contains 4 slices of pork and 3 groups of peppers and onion.
Eight skewers ready to go on the gas grill (or onto a grill pan):
Arrange skewers on grill grids over direct heat on medium-high heat of gas grill, or, on grill grids of a large grill pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. The heat on all grills and stovetops is not created equal, so, be sure to monitor the process, which goes quickly, carefully.
Grill skewers (all at once or in batches depending upon the size of your grill) turning four times, until pork is cooked through and light golden on all sides, and, peppers are showing signs of light charring around the edges. On grill and in grill pan, about 14-15 total minutes.
Unthread onto buns or atop rice & serve drizzled w/sauce:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 3-quart saucier; large spoon; 8, 8" bamboo skewers; gas barbecue grill or large double-burner-sized grill pan
Cook's Note: In French cooking, a saucier is the title of a chef who devotes his or her career to making sauces. The French also came up with a vessel, of the same name, to make whisking easy: a shallow, wide-bottomed pot with rounded sides. Reduction is quicker and easier because of the larger surface area, as: the larger the surface area, the faster the liquid evaporates. Whisking is easier because of the rounded bottom.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)