When Russians grill, there’s about a 95% chance or more that shishkebas will be on the menu. Chunks of meat speared on a skewered and cooked over open flame is almost like a sport or a recreation that has it’s own name. We even invite friends over in the summer by saying “let’s go kebabing”, давай соберемся на шашлыки.
It’s a beautiful tradition, sitting around a campfire, the cooking kebabs filling the air with the wonderful aroma of roasting meat, everyone talking, laughing, eating and even singing. Summer is a time of year to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. Most people do their best to avoid spending hours in the kitchen, bent over a hot stove.
Kebabs is a smart way to go, since you chop up some meat, let it marinate and then simply throw on the grill. There’s a minimum amount of prep and cleanup and the opportunity to spend more time in the sunshine and fresh air.
In our family, we have always been partial to chicken kebabs. They are a very frugal choice, but most of all, we love how juicy and moist the delicate meat turns out to be. I like to add some lemon juice and mayo to the marinade. The lemon juice adds a brightness and acidity while the mayo coats the meat. It helps the seasoning to stick to the meat while at the same time keeps it moist. I like a little bit of garlic and onion, but only enough to add great flavor, but not to overpower it.
I love the flavor of meat cooked over a fire. When you bite into the juicy and moist meat, you can taste the charred and smoky flavor permeating it all the way through each bite. The best part of the party is inviting your favorite people over for a party. Bonding over food in the “wilderness”, or at least a backyard with a grill is a way to build memories that will last for a lifetime.
Yields: about 10 kebabs
6 chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon McCormick Montreal chicken seasoning, optional
1 garlic clove, minced
1 very small onion, grated
1 1/2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Chop the chicken breasts into 1 1/2 – 2 inch chunks. Add the salt, pepper, chicken seasoning, garlic, onion, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Mix until well combined. Marinate for at least half an hour, preferably overnight. If you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for about 20 minutes, so the water soaks into the wood. This will prevent the skewers from burning too quickly.
Tread the meat onto the skewers. You want the meat to be close together, but not smooshed in too tightly. A glass casserole dish is a perfect vessel to carry the skewers to the grill, the perfect size and shape. just make sure to put the cooked kebabs in another dish, so you don’t contaminate your food. Definitely don’t want people getting sick. Preheat the grill to high heat. Soak a paper towel/regular towel in oil, and hoding it with tongs, coat the grill grates well with oil, at least five times. Place the kebabs on the grill and grill for about 5-7 minutes per side. The outside of the meat should be charred but still juicy inside. It was too dark to take pictures on the grill, but it’s pretty straightforward. Next time we grill, I’ll make sure to take a few shots.
One of the tricks that I have for kebabs to check for doneness is taking off the end piece of meat to pop in my mouth. If it’s not pink in the center, take off the grill. Remember, the outside one will cook faster that the middle pices of meat, but you should have a very good idea of the doneness of the meat by doing this. Pair this with a baked potato and fresh tomato salad and this is the ultimate outdoor dinner.