COOKING ADVENTURE # 15: Shashlyk With Pomegranate Molasses
Yeah, so I’m just going to put it out there for everyone. This cooking adventure really frustrated me. I mean, it REALLY, REALLY frustrated me. Everything turned out alright in the end, but the instructions and the ingredients for this thing were absolutely wrong or not specific enough. I mean, I expected this traditional Georgian recipe of the Caucasus Mountain region to be a bit difficult. And it certainly would have been easier if I’d actually been in possession of some skewers… because that’s the whole idea of Shashlyk. It’s like a shishkabob. But I didn’t have those. What was the closest thing that I could find? Chopsticks. Oh, just wait. There’s more.
The recipe I used for this had about 6 sentences of instructions which is practically nothing at all. And we can’t really even count the last one because it was just “Mmm… tasty!” I actually compiled all of the (correct) ingredients necessary to make this dish. Pomegranate juice, top sirloin steak, paprika, cayenne red pepper, a red onion (evil!), and several other things. In my haste to get home yesterday evening though, I didn’t stop to pick up the skewers. It took me literally a half a second to recognize this fact when I was putting together the marinade this morning. I wasn’t going out today. I had too many other things to do here.
First, I started off reading through the list of ingredients. It says that you are supposed to use 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses on the steak. That doesn’t seem like very much at all. And when you read through the remainder of the recipe… it doesn’t tell you how to make it! There isn’t a recipe on the entire site for how to make it! So… I found myself resorting to someone I had told myself I’d never take cooking direction from. I won’t name names, of course. But a certain scientifically-inclined culinary nerd from food network with horn-rimmed glasses and the initials A.B. might be enough for you to deduce his identity. He had put up a recipe for pomegranate molasses and I decided, “what the heck? If anyone can make a good pomegranate molasses, it has to be this guy.” Boy, was I ever wrong.
The recipe is fairly simple: 4 cups of pomegranate juice, 1 tsp. of lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of sugar in a saucepan. You heat the saucepan on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer the sauce for 70 minutes on the stove top. Now, I’ll admit, I’m kind of impatient when it comes to doing things in the kitchen, but I played nice, measured everything out, and turned on the front burner to medium. You want to know what happened? The fresh scent of burning pomegranate juice filled the kitchen very shortly after I started simmering it. So, naturally, I turned the heat down to medium low and put on the air vent. Then when the sugar dissolved, I just left it where it was for the next 70 minutes. During this time, I prepared the meat portion of the Shashlyk.
I pulled out my jumbo cutting board and slammed it down on the counter top. I decided it would probably be a better idea to cut up the onion first so that I could use the same board to cut up the meat. I was supposed to use 1/2 a red onion, cut up finely. How does one exactly cut up a red onion finely? I first sliced sections of onion horizontally with my santoku knife. Then, I turned the onion and tried to cut it from the other side, in order to get tiny little cubes. Unfortunately about 1/3 of the way through, the entire onion just crumbled apart. And as I lost my patience and began hacking away at the pieces like some kind of deranged lunatic, I started crying uncontrollably from the onion fumes. This continued for probably another five minutes until, satisfied with my onion carnage, I dumped the onion into a glass bowl.
Next, the meat. I pulled the tenderloin pieces out of the fridge and put them on the cutting board. Those were very easy to cut and I added those to the onion moments later. Then came the spices. 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, and 1/2 tsp. paprika. The recipe also asks you to include 1/2 cup of parsley and 1/2 cup of green onion. Since we already know that green onion doesn’t exist in Maine from my inability to find it on previous cooking adventures, I used chives instead. And I didn’t use 1/2 a cup. That would have been a seriously HUGE amount to add to the recipe. Same for the parsley. I mean, is it a marinade or a salad, for cripes sake? 1/4 cup was all I added for both of those.
I mixed everything together in the glass bowl, placed the bowl in the fridge, and returned my attention to the pomegranate molasses. 70 minutes took forever to go by. Eventually, I flipped off the heat and put the saucepan aside to cool for another half an hour. I spent that time playing with the lemon-eyed demon, throwing his purple mouse for him and letting him retrieve it. Oh yes. My cat plays fetch. When I returned, it was with a sour expression as I discovered that this mixture hadn’t thickened at all. In fact, it was still just as watery as when I’d started cooking it. I was livid, folks. I got really upset. In the end, I’m pretty sure I put the saucepan back on the stovetop for another twenty minutes, added more juice, more sugar, even some corn syrup, anything to make it thicken up. Nope. Nothing worked. I’m pretty sure that if A.B. had been in the room, he’d have come up with some ridiculous mathematical formula for some error I’d made in simmering the pomegranate syrup and I’d probably have had to punch him. I added the thin wannabe-molasses to the meat and the spices and put the bowl back in the fridge, not in any hurry to see it for a few hours.
It wasn’t until 6 o’clock that I pulled it out again. Now came the most difficult part: cooking the meat. And as you’ve already been told, I was without skewers. In the end, I pulled out my metal sheet pan, plucked the meat pieces from the marinade with a couple of forks and laid them out evenly across the pan. Then, they went under the broiler for ten minutes. I flipped them at this point and let them sit for another ten.
Then, I pulled them out and checked the insides. Still pink. I ended up ushering all of the meat bits onto a plate and sticking it in the microwave for a minute. Not anywhere close to the traditional Georgian recipe where they’d rotate these things over an open flame. I’m quite ashamed of myself, I have to say. When they came out of the microwave, I felt I needed to display them on something skewer-esque. The chopsticks were the only things I had…
In the end, they tasted pretty good. The juice that I got was 100% Pomegranate and not very sweet. The marinade tasted kind of strange because of that. And as always, I have the feeling I added too much onion to the mixture. I probably should have halved the recipe. I need to make that a general rule from now on. Oh well.
Next week on Cooking Adventures, I’d like to focus on something I haven’t done: chilled drink recipes! A Blueberry Banana Smoothie and Iced Chai Tea are next week’s Cooking/Blending Adventure! (Oh, and what the heck, we’ll throw some Triple Berry Muffins in there too, so that we can call it an “official” cooking adventure.) Stay tuned!