Σουβλάκι! That’s right! Souvlaki! Are you ready to Rome the streets of Athens today? (I got a good laugh out of that.)
I absolutely love Greek food! Greek food has flavors that really reflect their history. As a kid, probably a lot like you, I was always eager to read Greek mythology. As an undergraduate in physics, I used Greek characters in practically everything I did. By no means does that imply that I’m quite familiar with Greece, but I do love learning about the culture, history, language, and, most importantly for you now, the food.
Souvlaki reminds me of dozens of other kebab styles (except that the souvlaki meat is often removed and put inside pita bread or added to other dishes). In Greece, souvlaki is a popular fast food for every tourist or Greek citizen. There are essentially two ways to make it: I’ll show you how to make it as a marinade. Then, two days from now you’ll skewer the meat and pop it over a grill (or if you’re like me, and don’t have easy access to a grill, over a pan and under the broiler).
You will love this dish regardless of where or who you are. It is easy to make, takes almost no effort, and if you are on a budget and cannot go to Greece or buy an expensive dish then you’ll soon sink your teeth into something just as good.
With that, let’s go to the kitchen and make ourselves one wonderfully delicious dish.
Let’s go to the kitchen and get it cooking!
To make a truly authentic souvlaki, you’ll need one of three cuts of pork: shoulder, leg, or neck. It depends on how fatty and tough you like your meat. Once you have your pork, get out two medium tomatoes, two green peppers, 1 large onion, and then set out a few bay leaves, salt, oregano, and olive oil. (Occasionally, one cup of white wine is used too.)
Take the vegetables and cut them up into slices. Cut the peppers into slices that are about one square inch. With the tomato remove the pulp and then cut it into slices and remove the pulp (for a stronger tomato flavor you can add the pulp with the olive oil in the next step). Cut the onion into slices that are about the same dimensions as the tomato and pepper. It is important that they are all about the same size. The abnormally large slices will cook, and maybe burn, at a different rate than the rest.
Likewise, cut the meat into pieces that are about one cubic inch. I found that if I cut the meat too thin then it ends up too dry. I suggest an inch as the measurement for all of these. Remember that the meat will shrink as it cooks. The cooked size is about what you would expect to find from any street vendor (or restaurant) in Greece.
Find a shallow dish (I used a 9×13 pan) and put everything we have cut into a pan. Now, in a separate container pour in the olive oil. Then, stir in the salt, oregano, and bay leaves. (If you saved the tomato pulp or are adding white wine add it now.)
Pour the oil mixture over the meat and vegetables. Mix everything thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap (unless you have a lid) and put it in the refrigerator.
Periodically over the next 24-72 hours turn the meat. It is essential that all the ingredients get coated. Each piece needs to absorb the flavors. It is up to you how long to marinate the meat, but I think 48 hours is perfect. If you are in a rush, don’t marinate the souvlaki, I’ve had it like that too but, if you are looking for a more authentic flavor marinate for 14-48 hours.
You will see the meat and vegetables slightly change color as they absorb the liquid and flavors.
When the time has come, take the souvlaki out of the fridge. If you are using wood skewers, soak them in water. This helps avoid burning (and flames). I don’t have a grill, so to mimic the flavor we can use the broiler in the oven. Turn the broiler on. Skewer the souvlaki and set the skewers on a pan.
Once the oven is hot, put the souvlaki into the oven. Watch them carefully! We want everything to cook and have a grilled look, but if you cook too long then the meat will be dry. When it looks ready (about 10 minutes later — depending on your oven broiler’s temperature) remove it from the oven.
Now go out and enjoy! I hope you love this dish as much as I do! And hey, if you or your family make this differently share your thought!