September, 2014 — The Labor Day Issue
Kebabs may not be American in origin, but they have definitely become a popular part of American grilling festivities. Grilling colorful, flavorful tidbits arranged on skewers is the perfect way to celebrate Labor Day with friends as the summer season winds down.
In this issue, we offer two new kebab recipes and two old favorites. Garlicky Chicken Kebabs and Italian Sausage Kebabs are delicious and simple to prepare. Orange Teriyaki Beef Kebabs and Tequila Barbecue Chicken Kebabs are a little more involved, but amp up the flavor with homemade marinades and glazes.
From all of us here at Kalamazoo, we wish you a safe and happy Labor Day long weekend!
Garlicky Chicken Kebabs
A quick garlic rub and a little garlic-infused olive oil are all it takes to transform chicken kebabs from good to great. Cut the chicken into small cubes, and grill quickly over high heat for tender and juicy meat with bright, al dente vegetables.
For the garlic rub:
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt, plus more to season the kebabs before grilling
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
For the kebabs:
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 5 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil
- 2 green bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1-inch squares
- 1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1-inch squares
- 1 orange bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1-inch squares
- 2 yellow onions, cut into 1-inch squares
- 16 long bamboo skewers, soaked in water for a few hours to prevent burning
Prepare the rub first and cut up the chicken. Toss the cubed chicken with 2 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil. Season with the garlic rub. Let it rest at room temperature to soak up the flavor while you chop all of the vegetables.
After all of the ingredients have been cut up, prepare the grill for direct grilling at 600° to 650°F.
Before assembling the skewers, count each ingredient and divide by 8 to determine how many pieces of chicken, bell pepper, and onion will be used for each kebab. I like to assemble each kebab in identical fashion, for both better presentation and more even cooking.
Assemble the kebabs onto double-pronged skewers or pairs of single skewers. Using double skewers makes it easier to turn the kebabs and cook all sides of each morsel evenly because the pieces cannot rotate individually on the skewer.
Brush the assembled skewers with the remaining garlic-infused olive oil and season with additional garlic salt.
Grill the kebabs directly over a hot fire, turning occasionally until the chicken is done (about 5 to 10 minutes total, depending on your grill and your fire).
Orange Teriyaki Beef Kebabs
Beef tri-tip is tender and perfect for kebabs, and the homemade teriyaki gets a flavor boost from fresh orange for a winning combination.
- 3 cups freshly-squeezed orange juice
- 1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons freshly-grated garlic (use a microplane)
- 4 tablespoons freshly-grated ginger (use a ginger grater or microplane)
- 1-1/2 pounds tri-tip beef, cubed
- 1 red pepper, cut into squares
- 1 orange pepper, cut into squares
- 1/2 pound cubed fresh pineapple
- 1 sweet onion, cut into squares
- 24 large fresh spinach leaves
- 6 skewers, about 8 inches long
In a medium saucepan, reduce the 3 cups of orange juice down to 1 cup over medium heat.Whisk 1 cup of light brown sugar together with the sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and orange juice reduction.
Combine all but 1/2 cup of the teriyaki with the tri-tip in a zip-lock freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible, seal and refrigerate for about 2 hours. Stir the remaining 1/2 cup light brown sugar into the reserved 1/2 cup teriyaki. Cover and refrigerate to use later for basting.
When it is time to prepare for cooking, get the grill ready for direct grilling at about 400°F.
Assemble the kebabs, alternating between beef, bell peppers, sweet onion, pineapple and folded spinach leaves.
Grill the kebabs over direct heat for a few minutes per side, brushing with the reserved teriyaki glaze each time you turn the kebabs. Total cooking time should be about 10 minutes for beef cooked to medium doneness. Be careful not to slop too much teriyaki glaze onto the grill while you baste because the sugars will burn quickly.
Tequila Barbecue Chicken Kebabs
Our quick and easy Tequila Barbecue Sauce lends robust flavor to these chicken kebabs. Make a little extra sauce if you want to try it in other dishes.
- 2 cups Tequila Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)
- 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3 red bell peppers (or use 1½ red and 1½ orange for added color), cleaned and cut into squares
- 2 poblano chiles, cleaned and cut into squares
- 2 ears corn on the cob, shucked and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 red onion, cut into squares
- 6 skewers, about 8 inches long
Tequila Barbecue Sauce
- 1 cup ketchup
- 6 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (look for it in the aisle with Asian specialty ingredients)
- 1 cup light-brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce
- 1 cup tequila
- 8 cloves garlic, crushed
Combine all ingredients. Yields about 2 cups. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Cut the chicken into large cubes for the kebabs and place them in a zip-top freezer bag with 1 cup of tequila barbecue sauce. Remove as much air as possible, seal and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
When it is time to prepare for cooking, get the grill ready for direct grilling at about 500°F.
Assemble the kebabs, alternating between chicken, bell peppers, poblanos, corn and red onion.
Grill the kebabs over direct heat for a few minutes per side, brushing with the reserved 1 cup of barbecue sauce each time you turn them. The chicken should be cooked through in about 15 minutes. Be careful not to slop too much barbecue sauce onto the grill while you baste because the sugars will burn quickly.
Note: A lot of companies are offering nice grilling tools these days, including some pretty fancy skewers for kebabs. Some are forged stainless steel and some have “pusher” disks to help you transfer the kebab bits to your plate without getting your fingers dirty.
The most important skewer design feature, in my opinion, is a flat blade. A flat blade will help keep the pieces of food from rotating on the kebab. The blade doesn’t have to be very wide to do this, just markedly wider than it is thick (see the skewers in the picture on the left).
When the piece of food can rotate on the skewer, it is harder to turn the skewer for even cooking. Worse yet, when some of the pieces are rotating and some are not, you have to realign them over and over or totally forget about even cooking. A flat blade will keep all the food aligned so that you can easily cook everything evenly with a few turns of the skewer.
I’ve tried several different types of flat bamboo skewers for cooking. All of them work well. Some have double prongs, which make for a nice presentation. If you can’t find flat bamboo skewers, you can use pairs of round skewers in parallel to accomplish the same thing. Bamboo skewers can be soaked for an our before use to help prevent them from burning on the grill. You can also lay a folded strip of aluminum foil on the grill grate underneath exposed skewer ends to protect them.