The word “souvlaki” comes from a Greek word meaning “skewer” and refers to meat (usually lamb or pork) grilled on a skewer. Although we’ve never been to Greece (add it to the Life List!), we were inspired by a visit to a Greek food festival to try making this type of cuisine at home. Given our prior success with meat-on-a-stick recipes (pork, beef and more pork), we figured that the Greek version of the kebab would be a good place to start. We used this recipe for a simple, yet flavor-packed marinade made from olive oil, red wine, lemon juice, dried mint, dried oregano, garlic and a bay leaf. We made pork souvlaki because we happened to have pork shoulder in the freezer (most likely leftover from our Charcutepalooza efforts), but the marinade would likely be just as good with lamb or even chicken. Aside from the dried mint, these are all ingredients that we almost always have on hand, but wouldn’t necessarily have thought of combining. Surprisingly, the combination resulted in the unmistakable “Greek” flavors we remember sampling at the festival. Who knew it would be so easy to make Greek food at home? This is one of our favorite things about cooking — the satisfaction that comes from learning a new flavor profile or technique that opens up a whole new realm of recipe possibilities. Opa!
Allow at least 2 hours for the pork to marinate (ours marinated all day.) Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon dried mint, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and a bay leaf (crumbled into small pieces) in a bowl and mix them all together.
Trim the fat from the pork and cut it into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Try to make the cubes as much the same size as possible so they will cook evenly.
Place the pork cubes in a resealable plastic bag, pour in the marinade and swish it around to evenly coat all the pork. Refrigerate the pork until you’re ready to grill.
If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in a cookie sheet or pan filled with several inches of water for about 30 minutes prior to skewering the pork. Soaking them prevents the skewers from burning when you place them on the grill.
Thread the pork onto the skewers, leaving a little room at the bottom of each skewer as a handle for turning the meat while it cooks. Season the pork with salt and pepper and pour any marinade remaining in the bag over the skewers.
Grill the souvlakia (adding the “a” makes it plural) over medium-high heat until they are cooked through — about 10 minutes. Turn the souvlakia several times halfway through the cooking time so that the meat develops a nice even brown color on all sides. If you get any fire flare-ups, simply move the skewers to another, less flame-y area of the grill.
Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the souvlaki and serve. We served ours with tzatziki sauce for dipping (yet another Greek staple that is surprisingly easy to make from simple ingredients of yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, lemon, garlic and dill) and a cucumber/olive salad. Hopefully you will have enough souvlaki left over for lunch the next day, served in the traditional Greek style: stuffed in a warm pita with plenty of onions, tomatoes and tzatziki.