Lamb kebabs cooked on a grill are quite possibly my favorite way to enjoy this type of meat.
First, a little history on this recipe:
Last year, my good friend Mel Joulwan (Well Fed, Well Fed 2, Well Fed Weeknights) asked me to collaborate with her on a 6-installment recipe column in Paleo Magazine. I jumped at the chance because I’m a huge fan of Mel’s work, and she’s a dear friend of mine in real life.
See our first collaboration here: Spicy Yuca Fries with Garlic Sauce
Mel writes about these lamb kebabs:
“Let’s just agree right out of the gate that there is nothing as satisfying, fun, or inherently primal to eat than meat on a stick, a.k.a., shish kebabs.
They’re usually cooked over some kind of open fire, so there are all those irresistible, charred, crispy bits – and kebabs in all their various forms consistently show up in boisterous places: carnivals, street carts, family cookouts, summer holidays, and camping adventures.
Bonus: It’s generally accepted practice to eat shish kebabs with your hands, lick your fingers, and, if the spirit moves you, maybe howl at the moon. What dining experience is better than that?!
Whatever the origin, there’s no denying that lamb kebabs have long been a popular and manly meal all over the world.
We’re going to leap forward in time now to 16th century Russia and Ukraine to check in with the Cossacks.
Their kebabs were known as “shashlyk” and were cooked over wood fires that imparted a delightfully smoky flavor to the meat. Traditionally, the kebabs were made from lamb that had been marinated in wine and spices to tenderize it and to disguise its gamier notes.
By the early 20th century – just in time for the Russian revolution – the kebabs were a staple in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other soon-to-be-Soviet cities. Shashlik was one of the few traditional Russian dishes to make it through the Bolshevik revolution relatively unchanged.
Whether at a backyard barbecue, an urban food truck, or a camping trip in the Caucasus, shashlik is usually accompanied by simple salads of fresh vegetables. Although Russian cooks argue about the best marinades – wine versus lemon juice versus vinegar – their tradition grudgingly acknowledges that meat on a stick, cooked over a searing flame, is one of the finest ways to bring people together in celebration of food and life.
For our recipe, we’ve opted for lamb and a lemon-and-seltzer based marinade to tenderize the meat and infuse it with the earthy spices. The marinade will work equally well with cubes of pork or chicken, if you prefer. For the side salad, we adapted a sweetly crunchy combination of carrots and dried fruit in honor of spring.”
First, the lamb kebabs…
- 1/2 cup seltzer water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 tsp ground paprika
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 lb boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 3 small yellow onions, cut into eighths
Place the marinade ingredients in a glass bowl and whisk to combine. Add the lamb, toss to coat, and marinate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
When you’re ready to eat, thread the meat and onions onto skewers.
To cook on a gas grill: Preheat the grill on high with the lid closed until very hot, about 10-15 minutes. Grill the skewers uncovered, turning every 1-2 minutes, until lamb is cooked to desired doneness, 7-8 minutes total for medium-rare to medium.
To broil in the oven: Heat broiler on high. Place the skewers on a broiler pan and broil, flipping once, until the cubes are evenly browned but still pink in the middle, about 2-4 minutes per side.
To roast in the oven: Preheat oven to 375F. Place skewers on a baking sheet and roast, flipping once, until the cubes are evenly browned, about 12 minutes for medium-rare or 15 minutes for medium to medium-well.
And now the salad…
- 1-2 tbsp homemade mayo
- 1 tbsp honey
- Pinch sea salt
- Pinch ground black pepper
- 3 large carrots, peeled and grated
- 1/3 cup raisins, finely chopped dried apricots, or dates (or a mix of all three)
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
In a large bowl, place mayo, honey, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine. Add carrots, dried fruit, and walnuts, then toss until coated with dressing. Allow the salad to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes so the flavors can meld.
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