Old World Tuesday: Shashlyk, Kinda
May 31, 2010 § 9 Comments
Shashlyk, or shish kebab for you, is a Russian/Caucasian classic. It is no coincidence that shashlyk and shish sound sort of similar – both are derived from the Turkish for “skewer,” or shish, and the -lyk/lyg suffix in shashlyk is a Turkic suffix which helps to make a noun out of another noun. For instance:
gonag = “guest” in Azeri, or Azerbaijani – the native language of my country, which belongs to a group of Turkic – Turksh-like – languages.
gonag + lyg = gonaglyg, “an occasion for guests to come over,” i.e. “dinner party”
(It’s not actually spelled that way in Azeri, which uses the Roman alphabet with a few extra letters thrown in, but I don’t know where the right symbols are on my keyboard).
I know this because I once spoke 6 languages and grammar used to make me tingle as much as firearms do today. Grammar is also one of the funnest things for Jacob and I to discuss. We are different that way – some couples talk about The Sopranos, some talk about how many cases there really are in Turkish and so forth.
Anyhow, back in the Old Country, both the skewers and the pieces of meat were much larger, and the meat was mutton or lamb and not beef, like in this case, but the concept is, overall, the same – you marinate the meat and then skewer and grill it. Simple, right?
In this case I used 2 grassfed sirloin steaks, which I had completely trimmed of all fat and gristle, before cubing them into uniform, 1″ pieces.
I used this marinade recipe for 2 steaks-worth of meat, but found that to be a bit too strong – too salty and too sweet. So I would say try some other marinade. When I figure out a better one, I’ll let you know. But, either way, the basics of any marinade are simple – some oil and some acid (I don’t even know if you have to have fat, but you definitely need to have acid for tenderizing). I seem to recall that back home they marinated kebabs in a mixture of lemon juice and onions, although I am frankly not sure anymore.
Anyhow, skewer them like so… Be sure to soak your bamboo skewers for an hour or more prior to grilling to prevent them from burning. Then simply grill them over hot coals (the ones that are glowing-red yet are already covered with a layer of white ash), turning the kebabs after a couple of minutes, until they are medium-rare to medium. You don’t want to cook sirloin for very long at all. Do not cover your grill while you are doing it, and don’t walk away – they will only need a few minutes on each side. Use tongs to turn them.
And that’s all! I served these sprinkled with some chopped cilantro, mustard wedge fries from the Smitten Kitchen (which I always want to call “Smitten Kitten,” because “kitten” and “smitten” rhyme), and grilled fresh asparagus from my farm. (If you do want to try the fries, note that I skipped lemon peel because it made the fries too sour, and flipped each fry half-way through. You really need to do that.)