This grilling season, get on the stick

The Oklahoman's Food Dude shares recipes fit for a skewer.
by Dave Cathey Published: May 30, 2012

Memorial Day's passing means cookout season has begun.

So, get on the stick — literally.

Only heretics don't like meat on a stick; the proof is in the worldwide variety of recipes of skewered meats. Don't worry, my vegan and vegetarian friends, vegetables get treated like those who got in the way of Vlad the Impaler, too.

Just as humans are mysteriously drawn to things landing in water — whether baseballs, golf balls or skipping stones — so, too, are we mesmerized by the crude majesty of meat, stick and fire.

To prove it, I'm sharing four recipes from different parts of the world.

First, a few things to keep in mind:

If using wooden skewers, soak them in water at least an hour.

When skewering meats or thick vegetables, corkscrew the screw for quick passage through the target.

Leave space at either end of the skewer for easier handling.

On to the recipes.

First, a couple appetizers.

Chicken Yakitori is one of Japan's most popular dishes, typically served as an appetizer. Yakitori means “little bird,” and the sweet, bold flavors of the sauce are unmistakably Asian. A sprig of charred green onion adds balance and color. A sprinkle of Japanese chili powder called nanami togarashi, which I sourced at Super Cao Nguyen Market, adds just enough kick.

The Spanish are renowned for tapas, or small plates. These are my kind of dinners, lots of flavors eaten late at night with good wine. Pinchitos are little skewers, and for this interpretation I went with some densely seasoned pork that will make friends with practically any other vegetable, starch or bread.

The first shish kebab most of us born and raised in these parts ever had was the beef, bell pepper, onion and cherry tomato variety. It was always one of my favorites growing up. Typically, a 2-inch by 2-inch hunk of meat shared the same skewer as the aforementioned vegetables — all marinated in sherry wine or Teriyaki sauce at my house. I've modified the recipe with smaller pieces of meat and separate skewers for each veggie. Meat typically takes a little longer to cook, so the tomatoes often end up drained and the onion over-charred with the classic preparation.

My marinade is a variation on what I do for fajitas. I always loved that sherry flavor, and adding it to soy sauce and rice wine makes for a fusion of Mom's two marinade favorites.

While Greece might be challenged economically, its people are masters of the cookout. Souvlaki is one of their most delicious and most simple offerings. With grilled pita and cool, creamy Tzatziki, skewers will disappear fast.


by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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CHICKEN YAKITORI

For the sauce:

2 cups sake

2 cup soy sauce

1½ cups mirin

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup light brown sugar

1½ teaspoons grated ginger

1 teaspoon chili paste or sambal oelek, optional

For the skewers:

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut with the grain into 1½-inch strips

2 bunches scallions (about 12), cut into 1-inch lengths

Nanami togarashi

First make the sauce by combining all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to low and reduce sauce by half, at least one hour.

Fold one slice of chicken and skewer it, then skewer one green onion slice through the side. Leave space between chicken and onion. Place skewers on cutting board and gently press down to make chicken pieces uniform.

Spread the Yakitori over a medium-hot barbecue. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, remove from grill and brush generously with sauce. Barbecue until sauce is caramelized, 1-2 more minutes.

Remove to platter and sprinkle with nanami togarashi.

Serve as an appetizer or as part of a mixed grill.

Source: Dave Cathey

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