Saturday, June 18, 2011

Meat and Potato Kebabs

Boneless chicken
Small potatoes (red, white, fingerling, blue, whatever)
Garlic powder
Skewers (bamboo or metal)

Meat and potatoes go together like strip clubs and glitter, beer and firearms, and choking and the Washington Capitals. Combine these two foods with the greatest method of cooking known to man and you have something pretty special.
There's something to be said about food on a stick. That something is "Hell yes, give me some food on a stick." The greatest thing about kebabs is that you're cooking a whole meal at once.  The hardest thing about kebabs is that you have to cook a whole meal at once. With your traditional kebab fare (meat and veg), this isn't that big a deal; just make sure to slice your meat small enough and everything will turn out nicely. But when you get potatoes involved, it becomes a whole other ball game. But it can be done, and pretty simply assuming you're not a dumbass. Also, we're going to lose the vegetables all together because fuck vegetables.
Ancient Persian preparing to grill out

A Word About Kebab Versus Kebob
The word kebab comes from the Persian word kebbaba which means "to burn". It appears in the Talmud when describing offerings made at the local temple (usually burnt meat). Today, it's combined with the word shish (from the Arabic word for grilled meat) to describe meat grilled on a skewer. I'm not entirely sure what a kebob is, but feel free to keep calling it that if you find kebab a tad pretentious.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe requires use of a grill. If you don't have a grill or rudimentary knowledge of how to use a grill, disregard this recipe. Also, kill yourself.

1. Throw a big pot of water on to boil. If you're using bamboo skewers for your kebabing, you need to submerge them in water for at least a half hour... otherwise they'll catch fire while you're cooking and make you look like a moron in front of the fire department. If you're using metal skewers, know that you won't be able to serve your food on the stick as god intended. They're also a pain in the ass to turn while grilling, since the metal heats up. I highly recommend bamboo skewers.

The goal here is to ensure the potatoes and the meat are all cooked to perfection on the grill at the same time. Unfortunately, chunks of meat are going to cook in about 12 minutes. Raw potatoes would take at least an hour and a half. So we have to precook the potatoes. But, if we precook them too long, they'll get too soft to be skewered and will fall apart on the grill. This can be a serious pain in the ass, but we can help things out. First, we're going to use whole potatoes with the skin intact: this will help them hold together on the skewers. I'm using small red potatoes, fingerling potatoes (the yellow ones), and small blue potatoes. I found them all in a single bag. Wash thoroughly.

Once your pot of water gets up to a nice boil, toss in the potatoes. You need to boil them for around NINE MINUTES. That is bold and capped for a reason. Any less time and they'll still be raw after grilling; any more and they'll fall apart. Nine minutes is just about perfect, so set a fucking timer.

2. Now you need to cut up your meat. I went with petite sirloin and boneless chicken thighs. You need to make sure your pieces are roughly the same size so they cook at the same speed.

Don't try to cube your meat or you'll invariably get pieces that are too small. I suggest more of a chunking method: cut your meat into however many equal pieces you can make, then cut those pieces in half.

3. Unless you're Johnny Chopquickly, your potatoes should be about done. You need to drain them immediately and let them sit for a few minutes to cool off. Your potatoes should feel somewhat soft when you lightly squeeze them, but not falling apart. Don't run cold water over them, as this could cause the skin to split in places.

While the potatoes are cooling, we're going to make a simple butter, herb, and garlic mixture to brush on the kebabs. I use about a fourth of a stick of butter and a liberal dash of garlic and basil, usually in a coffee cup (it's portable and can handle the heat). Cover and nuke for a minute or so.

4. Now we need to skewer. This is pretty much self explanatory so long as you follow a few guidelines: always skewer through the thickest part of your meat/potato. This part may not always be the center; it's more important for your food to get a good, firm hold on the skewer than to have perfectly symmetrical kebabs. You'll also want to get your meat and potatoes right up next to one another. This will help keep the individual pieces from moving. This only applies to bamboo skewers... you need to leave some room between your pieces on metal skewers so the heat from the metal can escape. Alternate potato and meat, as shown.

Be sure to leave yourself some room at the base to turn. You can skewer all the way to the tip if you want.

Do this as many times as you need to. You'll undoubtedly run out of meat or potatoes before you've used all that you have to grill, so your last two or three will be a bit ghetto. No worries.

5. To the grill. Obviously, if you're using a charcoal grill, you'll want it ready to go, which means you SHOULD have prepared it far in advance of putting your food together. For a gas grill, just flip it on before you start skewering and it'll get all nice and hot. You really shouldn't need any kind of non-stick spray, but if it makes you feel better knowing that it's there, feel free to coat the grill. Again, this isn't a grilling tutorial, so you should know all about lighting and even heating and all that. Place your kebabs carefully on the hot grill.

Brush your garlic and herb butter over the kebabs, then sprinkle them with salt. Don't put your butter back in the ice box it'll congeal on you.

Your kebabs should only need about 6 minutes a side to cook, but you should keep an eye on them. The potatoes will pick up some beautiful grill marks, but if the skin starts to split, you've over cooked them.

Carefully flip your kebabs. If you skewered them correctly, none of your pieces should come loose. Give them another brush of butter and herb, and in six more minutes or so...

you're done. Plate (if you want to be fancy), serve, and enjoy.


  1. You had me at Kebab, bob....yum.

  2. Holy shit. I'm totally doing these next time I grill.

    Also, to add a little "grill tutorial" - you should be wiping the grill down with vegetable oil before use anyway to season it. Let it heat up, then take a grill cloth (or napkin), dab it with oil, and rub it down.

  3. I highly recommend a Chimney Starter for charcoal grills. Makes sure all your charcoal is lit, nice and hot, and when you remove it, your charcoal heats evenly. It also enables you to use very little starting fluid so you don't kill the flavor of whatever your cooking with a lot of starter fluid.