Introduction: Shish Kebobs – a Tasty Delight

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Grilling food on a stick is an ancient concept. Shish Kebob can probably be traced back to cavemen after they discovered fire. The concept evolved over the centuries and many cultures have created variations that are local to their ingredients and tastes. The key element is some kind of cubed or cut protein or vegetable that has been impaled on either a wood or stainless steel skewer. The cube shapes are advantageous as they allow the food to marinate, cook quickly and are easy to eat.
With respect to the marinade, local and ethnic flavors will dictate the direction you take in making your preferred recipe. For today, I will offer a recipe that is based on the Moroccan flavors associated with the Middle East. I will also stick to beef, although pork, lamb, chicken and fish or seafood can be utilized. Feel free to interchange these proteins per your liking. Ground meat recipes, while also very tasty, will not be discussed at this time.

Step 1: Special Consideration:

Timing is all-important when it comes to producing a shish kebob meal. Allow a minimum of 6 to 8 hours even up to a day, for the marinade to penetrate the meat. Meat placed in a bowl with the marinade is the usual method, but a plastic bag works too. I like to accelerate the process by introducing the meat and marinade into a vacuum bag. That should take 3 to 5 hours to complete the task. You will need time to cut up and skewer all the components. Also allow time to light the grill and get it to the proper temperature. For charcoal grill, the coals must be totally covered in white ash in order to expel any chemical starters that may have been used. A chimney starter is ideal, as it imparts no chemical. Lump wood charcoal is also preferred since it contains no binders as are found in charcoal briquettes.

Fire management is key to insuring a good cook. You must not burn your kebobs, and therefore should create areas of different temperature zones to control the heat. Once on the grill, you should be present to manage the process and turn the skewers regularly. Typically, the shish kebob is cooked over an open charcoal grill. However, you can get great results in your oven broiler as well. The choice of skewers is critical to the type of food being grilled, and size of grill. For meat, I prefer the flat skewers as they allow you to flip you meat without uncontrollable rotation that typically occur with round skewers. Also, as an additional benefit, the flat skewer transfers heat to the center of the meat to accelerate the cooking time and doneness. When doing small vegetables, I like to use small round skewers, which are inserted in a double row to prevent rotation and facilitate ease of turning. These can be metal, or wood. If wood is used, the skews should be soaked in water about 1 hour before cooking to prevent the wood from burning.

In today’s recipe, I have chose sirloin flap steak. It is good for grilling, and I will employ a technique that minimizes preparation time. Instead of individual cubes, I will cut strips to which a skewer will be inserted through its entire length. These strips will be marinated first, inserted for the grilling and cut to size after it is cooked. This will allow you to make additional cuts across the grain for a more tender eating experience.

Step 2: Ingredients

For the meat and marinate:

  • 2 pounds of sirloin flat meat.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large lemon and its zest
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed3 tbs. of finely diced parsley
  • 6 tbs. of extra virgin olive oilAnd the star of the show: 4 tsp. of Ras el Hanout
  • Ras el Hanout is a complex blend of spices used in Morocco.

If you can’t find Ra el Hanout, you may substitute the following:

  • 2 tsp. each of cumin, Spanish paprika, and black pepper
  • ½ tsp. each of cinnamon and ginger
  • ¼ tsp. each of turmeric and cayenne pepper

Step 3: Equipment Necessary

An outdoor grill for cooking with an appropriate heat source, such as charcoal or gas. Apartment dwellers should use their oven broiler as an alternative.
Measuring spoons, a bowl to hold and mix all the ingredients and a sharp knife for cutting.

A set of flat stainless steel and wood skewers for smaller items, as large skewers tend to split items such as onions and mushrooms for example.

A good chef’s knife, butcher block, and a carving knife and fork for slicing and serving, a pair of tongs and insulated oven gloves.

Foil trays may be used to store the loaded skewers ready for cooking.

A large platter or two for removal from the grill as well as presentation.

Step 4: Step for Preparation: Step 1

Cut the sirloin flap meat into strips that will eventually become bite sized.

Step 5: Step for Preparation: Step 2

Place the meat strips either into a glass dish or large plastic bag. Mix all the spices and oil in a bowl and pour over the meat. Massage the meat to distribute completely.

Step 6: Step for Preparation: Step 3

Then refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

Step 7: Steps for Preparation: Step 4

  • Near the end of the marinating time, gather your vegetables. Below is a sample of some items that can be utilized, but feel free to add or subract to your liking.
  • Cut and skewer the vegetables. Each skewer should have one type of vegetable.
  • Baste with marinade.

Step 8: Steps for Preparation: Step 5

  • Drive the skewer carefully through the entire length of the flap meat.
  • Place on the grill, turning frequently.
  • Grill the vegetables.
  • Remove the meat to rest before slicing.

Step 9: Steps for Preparation: Step 6

Plate the grilled vegetables.

Slice the meat into bite size pieces and heat up some pita bread on the grill.

Step 10: Steps for Preparation: Step 7

For family style presentation you can serve it with a side of couscous.

Or you can assemble in a pita.

Step 11: Summary and Final Thoughts:

Feel free to experiment with variations on the marinade as well as the various cuts of meat, fish or foul. The same techniques apply, so with some practice you will find it easy to duplicate.