Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ever Tried Shish Kebab in Grilling Season?

What is "Shish Kebab" or "Kebab" or "Kebob" or "Kabob" anyway?  That's a lot of different names for basically the same thing.  They all refer to putting food pieces on a skewer and grilling or broiling them to eat.  The main ingredient is usually meat of some type.

The original "Shish Kebab" used lamb as the meat.  They also come with pieces of vegetables or fruit too.  Today, you'll find them referred to as any of those names mentioned above depending on the country.

In today's world of food, anything goes when making a "Kabob" which is my preferred word for them.  By that I mean just about any meat, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetable and/or fruit works.  If you can get it on a skewer, then you can grill it.

When I first started in the business, you would see skewers with lamb or beef.  They also came with vegetables such as mushrooms, bell peppers, onion and cherry tomatoes.  The meat and vegetables were skewed alternating the meat and vegetable.  For appearance, they would do pepper, meat, tomato, meat, onion, meat, mushroom, meat, onion, meat, tomato, meat and end with a pepper.  It looked great on a plate when presented to a customer in a restaurant.

There was a problem in cooking them that way.  When the meat was done to the customers likeness (medium-rare, medium, etc.) the other ingredients were not.  Some of the vegetables would be over cooked and others under cooked.

Time and imagination has helped us there.  All the ingredients on a skewer need to be close in size.  Meats or other protein are usually cut to about 1-1 1/2 inch square pieces.  Vegetables and fruit try to follow in size to the protein.

We best talk about "Skewers" a little.  You can use metal or wood skewers.  The metal ones come both round and flat.  You can actually get some that are a half inch wide but still thin.  The flat skewers may help a little in keeping the food from rotating as you try turning them on the grill.  Wooden skewers need to be soaked in water for 30 minutes before using.  This keeps them from burning during the cooking process.

Many people today also grilled the meat and other ingredients separately on their own skewer.  That way you can control the cooking process better.  My suggestion for the meat is to start and end their skewer with some pepper slices.  This way the outside pieces of meat are not over done compared to the inside pieces.  This is especially important with poultry.

A few other tricks with vegetables is to blanch the pepper pieces before putting on the skewer.  I sauté my mushrooms a little before skewering too.  They tend to dry out just going straight to the grill.  I'll use 2 skewers for some items because they twist and turn on you as you try to turn them over to grill the other side.  I'll also try not to pack them items too tightly on the skewer as this lets the heat into those side areas.

I season red meats, brine poultry and marinade seafood to help keep moisture in the ingredient as it cooks.  The brine I use is just water and salt in a ratio of 2 quarts of water to 2 tablespoons of salt.  30 minutes is enough time for the brine too.  Be sure to pat all the ingredients dry with paper towels before grilling.  This helps with getting a good sear on the  outside of the protein and hold in moisture.

Today's post does not cover everything there is to know about "Shish Kebabs" but it gives you a good start in understanding them.  Now you can get creative and have fun making your own.

The recipes this week include "Shrimp Kabobs with Tomato/Basil Sauce" tomorrow and "Chicken Kabobs with Extras" on Thursday.  I hope you try these and share with family and friends.  "Happy Cooking" until next week.

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