Russian Onion and Pork Kebabs
Shashlik is to Russia (and the former Soviet Republics) what shish kebab is to Turkey. They even mean the same etymologically: “sword meat”—in other words, meat grilled on a swordlike metal spit. The meat in question here is pork, marinated in grated onion and charred over charcoal. If you ever visit a dacha (weekend villa) in the countryside around Moscow on a weekend, you’ll smell shashlik before you actually see or taste it, for everyone seems to be grilling some in the backyard. Here’s how shashlik is prepared by my friend Nikolai Baratov, editor of BBQ, Russia’s first barbecue magazine. (If you read Russian, or you just want to look at cool pictures, check out Nikolai’s website: bbqmag.ru.)
Total Timeunder 4 hours
OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together, game day
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free
Equipmentfood processor, grill
Taste and Texturemeaty, savory, tangy
Type of Dishskewer
- 1½ pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1½ teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
- Russian-style black bread, for serving
- Long flat metal skewers
Advance preparation: 2 hours or as long as overnight for marinating the pork.
Place the cubes of pork in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the salt, coriander, and pepper over them and stir well to coat.
Grate the onion over the pork using the large holes of a box grater. You can also finely chop the onion in a food processor and spoon it over the pork. Stir to mix. Tightly cover the bowl with a couple of layers of plastic wrap to keep the onion scent from permeating your refrigerator. Let the pork marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight, stirring it a couple of times so it marinates evenly. The longer the pork marinates, the richer the flavor will be. (As far as most Russians are concerned, you can never have enough onion.)
Drain the pork well, discarding the marinade, and thread the pork onto the skewers.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high.
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the kebabs on the hot grate and grill the pork until it is sizzling, nicely browned on all sides, and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side, 8 to 12 minutes in all.
Using tongs, slide the pieces of pork off the skewers onto plates or a platter. Serve the pork with Russian black bread (grilled if you like).
2010 Steven Raichlen