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Cooking with David

Shish Kebab

Copyright © 2008 by David E. Ross

Today, it seems that every food cooked on a skewer is call a kabob. WRONG! First of all, several dictionaries indicate that the preferred spelling is kebab. More important, the phrase shish kebab is an Armenian phrase in which shish means "skewer" and kebab means "roasted meat". Thus "fruit kebab" actually means meat roasted with fruit (not necessarily on a skewer) but frequently is intended to mean fruit on a skewer without meat (shish fruit??).

I know that some restaurants serve beef or even chicken labeled shish kebab, but to me the classic shish kebab always uses lamb.

The amount of each ingredient is determined by your appetite for it.

boneless lamb meat
Greek marinade
onion
mushrooms
thick-sliced bacon

skewers

The day before cooking, cut the lamb into 1-inch cubes. Seal in a Ziploc bag with the Greek marinade, pressing out as much air as possible. See Greek marinade about turning and kneading the bag.

About 1 hour before cooking (allowing more time for a large amount of meat), prepare the other ingredients for assembling the shish kebab.

Remove a piece of lamb from the bag, wrap a piece of bacon part-way around the lamb, and thread it onto a skewer. (The skewer should go through both ends of the piece of bacon as well as through the lamb.) Thread a piece onion onto the skewer. Thread another piece of bacon-wrapped lamb onto the skewer. Thread a mushroom onto the skewer. Repeat for the other skewers. Then repeat for the first skewer. Cycle through the skewers until all ingredients are used. The ingredients should be snug and tight on the skewers.

Pour the remaining marinade from the bag into a cup.

Grill the skewers on a barbecue over high heat for about 5-6 minutes on one side, moving the skewers around to ensure they get uniform cooking and basting the skewers with the remaining marinade. Turn the skewers over and grill about 1-2 minutes. After one final basting, reduce the heat and cook with the barbecue cover closed for about 5 minutes.

This is very good with rice pilaf. If a different side dish is served, I suggest also serving warmed pita bread. (This is also good with a Greek salad. Since I make a Greek salad according to a copyrighted cookbook, you won't find the recipe on this Web site.)

I used to use lamb stew meat for this recipe, but markets no longer seem to carry it. I now use pre-boned leg of lamb, lamb loin, or other boneless meat. Lamb can be served medium rare (pink); but for shish kebab, it can also be medium well. Don't cook it completely well, or it will be dry.

Parboiling the mushrooms allows them to be skewered without breaking. Parboiling the bacon ensures that, even if it is not thoroughly cooked on the barbecue, it is safe to eat. I use thick-sliced bacon because regular (thin-sliced) bacon might melt away on the barbecue. Parboil the mushrooms first so they don't get coated with the fat that renders out of the bacon.

For the two of us, I used slightly over 1/2 pound of lamb, 4 strips of bacon, 1/2 of a large onion, 8 mushrooms, and 4 disposable bamboo skewers. I threaded a piece of meat on each skewer, a piece of onion on each, etc. This way, I knew that I would have four equal skewers. Before I was done, I ran out of bacon and had onion and mushrooms left over at the end. I used the remaining lamb without any bacon and added onion and mushrooms together at both ends of each skewer.

Some people prefer shish kebab to be spicy. Before making the marinade, slice a hot chili pepper lengthwise in half and let it soak in the olive oil for about an hour. You might even heat the oil with the pepper in a microwave oven for about a minute before letting it stand for the hour. Pour the oil through a strainer into the blender used for making the marinade to ensure all pepper seeds have been removed. We prefer our shish kebab less spicy; but I add a generous pinch of curry powder to the blender, not enough to taste but enough to notice something is different.

Some people like to include whole cherry tomatoes or pieces of bell pepper on the skewers. I'm not fond of large pieces of cooked tomato, and I definitely do not like to taste any kind of pepper by itself. (When a recipe requires a pepper, I chop it very fine to allow it to blend with other flavors.) However, if you like these, try them.

8 July 2008