Being of Greek descent, I grew up with a predominantly Mediterranean menu in our house. Yes, way before the “Mediterranean Diet” was a thing – it was just the way we ate in our house. Even if something wasn’t necessarily associated with Greek food – my family would use spices and flavorings to make it that way. Take, for example, the steak. Whether NY Strip, filet mignon or London broil – the beef would, at the very least, be doused with the juice of freshly halved lemon and a sprinkle of good dried Greek oregano.
Any person of Greek descent worth their salt has perfected their “Souvlaki” marinade. I have seen some crazy ingredients go into these marinades over the years (for example cola or tonic/seltzer water) – with friends and family swearing they had found the KEY to excellent flavor and tender meat. I will share with you MY secrets to excellent flavor and tender meat.
Tender Meat: In my experience, to be sure you have tender meat in your finished product, it’s best to START with a tender cut of meat. 😊 I always use pork tenderloin for my souvlaki.
Another key for me is to ensure it’s been “cleaned”. This means to remove all the tough “silver skin” on the sides of the tenderloin. The silver skin is thin membrane of connective tissue. If not removed, these become chewy bits and can freak some folks out (like our son).
Excellent Flavor: A simple marinade, some time in the refrigerator and the right amount of time on the grill will yield excellent flavor every time!
…..Ready? Let’s get started!
Prepare the marinade:
1. Choose a vessel. I’ve used zip-top bags in the past – and they work fine. I’m trying to use less plastic, so I use a large glass bowl.
2. Mix the marinade in the bowl and set the bowl next to your cutting board so that the pieces can go directly to the bowl of marinade (this is a step that helps minimize mess and clean up)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil (specifically not olive oil – we want a neutral oil)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (black pepper is fine if you don’t have white)
- good Greek oregano** – how much? If you ask any Greek cook, they will tell you to add until it smells right. Yes, I know that’s annoying, but it’s true. So, start by adding 1/2 a tablespoon, mix it up and take a sniff. Add more as you like. I don’t recommend going overboard – as too much oregano can take the flavor to the bitter side.
- I use this same marinade for lamb chops and they are delicious.
- The amounts listed above produce enough marinade for 2 pork tenderloins – you can easily scale for more meat depending on the number of guests.
- **Good Greek Oregano = comes directly from Greece. Oh sure, you can purchase Greek oregano in stores, but the kind I’m talking about is that which is hand picked and hand delivered by a friend or relative who is visiting from Greece. It is so aromatic that it’s delivered and stored in a double-layered zip top bag.
MMMMM….such a beautiful smell! Ok, back to the souvlaki.
Prepare the meat:
1. Using a sharp knife with a slim and pointy blade – I typically will use a boning knife – cut away any fat that has been left on.
2. Remove the silver skin by piercing the meat under the silver skin but close to the surface. Your blade should be out the other side of the silver skin. While holding down the tenderloin, run the knife away from you – under the silver skin and gently pushing up with the knife. This will force pressure on the skin which is thick and will keep you from removing too much meat along with the skin.
3. Once cleaned, cut the tenderloin into 1.5 to 2-inch chunks. It’s important to not cut the meat too small. It will dry out on the grill. Pork tenderloin is relatively inexpensive – better to use more and keep them a good size and flavorful than to make a lot of small bits that are dry and unpleasant.
4. As you cut the meat, place the chunks in the marinade – stir around with a spoon, cover and place in the refrigerator.
How long to Marinate?
I’ve marinated as short as a few hours to as long as a few days. 8 – 24 hours is a good window I have found. This allows for the planning to begin the night before, or for plans to change (like, oh no it’s raining) and the menu is pushed to the following day.
Grill Time! This is where Mr. Single shines!
1. Remove the meat from the refrigerator. Skewer the chunks of marinated meat. I like to use stainless steel skewers as they tend to cook the meat more quickly and evenly since they deliver heat to the center of the meat. Discard the remaining marinade. Let the meat rest for at least 20 minutes so the chill from the refrigerator is off.
2. Pre-heat your grill to medium-high for about 5 mintues (we use a gas grill for this dish)
3. Oil your grates
4. Place the skewers on the hot grates – we keep the grill lid open while cooking these lovelies
5. Set a timer (we’ve learned the hard way) – turn the skewers every 3 minutes. Should be about 12 minutes total
6. Remove the skewers from the grill and remove the meat from the skewers onto a serving platter. Shower with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Serve and ENJOY!
» Sunday Rice (pictured above) – click here for my recipe
» Tzatziki (pictured above) – click here for my recipe
» Chickpea salad (pictured above) – click here for my recipe
» Grilled Veggies
» Greek-style salad
» Potatoes (either French fries or grilled in a foil packet)
» Make into a sandwich with grilled pita