Food & Drink : Meat on a stick!

For easy summertime eatin’, make like your caveman forebears

There is something so basically satisfying — dare I say primal? — about eating meat on a stick. I would venture a guess that, oh, a week to 10 days after their encounter with the mysterious monolith, those newly enlightened primates in 2001: A Space Odyssey discovered the joy of threading a piece of the lower half of the food chain on a twig and roasting it over an open flame. There was likely much grunting and jumping for joy that fated afternoon, as well.

In modern times, backyard alpha males and females recreate our ancestors’ classic invention in largely unvaried weekend rites of summer. God bless ’em. The joy of succulent mouthfuls of protein is unfettered by the anticipation of a thankless hour in the kitchen, scrubbing and rinsing plates and utensils. Proto-man had no utensils. At the risk of stating the obvious, there was no dishwasher back in the cave. Let’s not temper the pure joy of grilling by bringing forks and knives into this. All right, you may have a napkin, but that’s as far as I’m willing to bend.

Meat on a stick: created in 20,000 B.C. and still enjoyed today.

What’s that I hear? Murmurs of dissension from the gatherers in the clan? They say: “Plain.” “Uncivilized.” “Boring.” I say, “Ug.” Meat on a stick does not have to be dull — most every great culinary civilization has offered a kebob (or satay, or whatever the hip bar menus are calling them this week) to our great, collective cookbook. Below, please find complex flavors, marinades and sauces nuanced of the various flora and fauna native to some early hunters’ tiny corner of our evolving planet. All that, on a stick.


Thai Chicken Satays with Peanut Sauce

3 whole chicken breasts (6 split breasts), sliced lengthwise into 1- by 5-inch strips
1 c olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Peanut Sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
1 c peanut butter
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c vegetable or olive oil
3 T white-wine vinegar
3 large or 4 small cloves of garlic
1-inch square cube peeled fresh ginger
1 t dried hot red pepper flakes
2 T hoisin sauce
juice of 1 fresh lime
1 small whole jalapeño, coarsely chopped
1/2 c water

Thread chicken strips onto wooden or metal skewers, season with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil. Grill or broil 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, or until chicken is opaque and cooked through. Drizzle with peanut sauce and garnish, if desired.

Garnish: roasted and salted peanuts, crushed

Tip: Freezing meat for 30 minutes makes it easier to slice; if using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in water for one hour prior to using in recipe.

Steak Skewers with Uruguay-Style Chimichurri

One flank or skirt steak

1 c vegetable oil
1/4 c lemon juice
2-4 cloves crushed garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1 T chili powder

Slice meat against the grain into thin strips and place in a gallon-sized zipper bag with marinade ingredients. Shake to coat. Marinate overnight, or up to 24 hours, shaking bag periodically.

Chimichurri Sauce:
1 bunch fresh, flat-leaf parsley, stemmed and coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 t paprika
1 t dried oregano
1/2 c white-wine vinegar
2 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar or sealable bowl and shake thoroughly. Sauce can be made up to 48 hours in advance.

Drain meat of excess marinade and thread onto wooden or metal skewers. Grill or broil to desired doneness. Drizzle with chimichurri or serve sauce on the side for dipping.

Moroccan spiced kabobs with pita

1 lb. ground lamb
1 lb. ground beef (15 percent fat)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 chopped parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 t each: cinnamon, ground coriander, black pepper
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients above and fry a marble-sized sample in olive oil to test for seasoning. Adjust salt or other seasonings if necessary, to your taste.

Form ground meat mixture into oblongs, approximately 3 inches by 1 inch and thread onto the end of wooden or metal skewers. Sauté or grill until meat is no longer pink and outside of kabobs are lightly charred (about 10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time).

Serve along with warm pita bread and store-bought hummus (bring hummus to room temperature before serving) as a side dish, or as the makings of a sandwich. Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.

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