Tells and shows, the chef of the restaurant
For the lands where barbecue was invented, the Caucasus and Central Asia, lamb is the most common meat. And we rarely have it. The reasons are clear, they were once aptly formulated by Peter Vail: “Lamb does not go well with Slavic traditions, that is, with pickles, sauerkraut and vodka. It freezes in our unaccustomed throats and lies in an undigested lump in our stomachs until the next dinner. And all because we do not wash it down with hot green tea or cold red wine.
We do not agree on everything with the classic “Kitchen in Exile”, after all, we have more or less learned how to drink kebabs with red wine. But lamb skewers are still a difficult genre, it seems to us that in order to select, dissect and fry this whimsical meat, you need to be born, but it is better to live all your life in the Caucasus. Either the kebab turns out to be too odorous, then it is fibrous and dry. But the eyes are afraid, but the hands do. We asked Ilya Cherkashin, the chef of a good oriental restaurant, to tell us in detail how to bring lamb kebab to perfection. Follow the tips and step-by-step master class exactly - and everything will work out.
“The lamb reaches its ideal condition for barbecue when it is 12-14 months old. Although for those who buy lamb in the market, this information is of no practical use, because there the lamb usually lies on the counter already in the form of separate fragments. But you can determine the age of the future barbecue even in this disassembled form: look at the back of the ribs - if they are not thicker than a finger, then the lamb has passed the age limit.
The next step is to touch and smell the meat. If the dent from pressing with a finger does not recover and the flesh does not spring like a ball, such lamb will be tender when frying. And lamb should not emit any unpleasant odors, then they cannot be interrupted by any marinade. The color of quality young meat is a soft pink, by no means blood-purple. If you buy a lamb in the market, then ask to cut a piece: the color should not differ inside and out. Finally, ask the seller about the origin of the meat - lambs from Stavropol are good in spring, they acquire an ideal shape by the beginning of May (and lose it at the end of July). Dagestan lambs are generally a delicacy: free grazing, no chemicals.
If you are aiming for a perfect, tender kebab, then take an expensive, loin, part of the carcass - it has a reference ratio of meat and fat. The flesh of the leg is more budgetary, but tougher, it will take a long time to marinate, and it requires experience. Many people like the kidney part, but it can scare away the uterine odor inherent in it. But this is a matter of taste.
Cut the flesh into pieces about 5 cm in size - let them be as dicable as possible, and so that there is a little fat on each piece.
You need to marinate the meat for barbecue a little bit. And so much so that you can do it right before leaving - while you drive to the place, install the barbecue, until the coals flare up, it will take one and a half to two hours, it will be just ready. In my opinion, the purpose of a marinade is not to soften the meat, but to provide it with additional flavor. Wine, vinegar for lamb are rough: wine dries the meat, and vinegar makes it flabby, deprives it of taste (but here I don’t pretend that my opinion is the only true one, the whole Caucasus considers wine and lamb an ideal couple, and I don’t argue with the whole Caucasus make up my mind). And I’m not a supporter when, in addition to meat, they also string a whole tray of vegetables on a skewer - tomatoes, peppers, potatoes. From wet vegetables, the meat itself is saturated with moisture and will not be fried on the grill, but boiled - this is not the option that we need. In addition, the cooking time for meat and vegetables is different. Therefore, it is worth limiting yourself to onions, well fixing it on the shampoo. It will give the meat a rich flavor, and it will not need a lot of spices.
I suggest a roasted pepper marinade - so, in Turkish tradition, we marinate meat in a restaurant. You can take ready-made pepper paste, for example, of Turkish origin, it is sold under the label of muhammar. But a homemade, freshly prepared marinade is good for its tenderness, moderate spiciness, light baked notes, and it is definitely more interesting than any ketchup.
Take care of the marinade first, it takes time to cook. For 4 servings of barbecue, you will need 800-900 grams of sweet bell pepper. Since the kebab is marinated, as a rule, at home before leaving, it is easier to use the oven: wash the peppers, put them in one layer on a baking sheet, bake in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for 20–25 minutes. They should become absolutely soft, and do not be afraid of black marks - it should be so, you clean off the skin, the aroma of fire will remain.
Prepare a large bowl for the marinade. Here is the main trick: the very taste is in the juice that has gathered inside the pepper. Therefore, first open the pepper, squeeze the juice into a bowl, and then peel the pepper from the skin and seeds. You need to carefully remove the seeds, otherwise it will be difficult to clean them off the meat later. Use a paper towel to wipe the insides of the peppers - it will be faster.
Finely chop the pepper pulp and put in a bowl with juice.
Remove the leaves from a couple of sprigs of rosemary, finely chop them and add to the pepper.
Then add spices to your liking. I put the spices in a dry form, they burn less on fire. For example, 1 teaspoon of a mixture of sweet and spicy paprika, sumac and thyme and 2 teaspoons of salt is a basic proven set.
Peel a couple of onions, chop as small as possible and add to the marinade as well.
To achieve uniformity, mix the marinade well with an immersion blender, and if it is not at hand in the field, then with a whisk.
Cut the meat into pieces the size of half a matchbox (40-45 grams one piece). If it is smaller, the kebab will turn out dry, if it is larger, it will be difficult to fry it evenly, the edges will burn, and the core will remain raw.
Cut a couple more onion heads into thick rings, about 1 cm, and remember well with your hands, not being afraid to break.
Put the meat and coarsely chopped onions in the marinade, mix with your hands, cover the bowl with a lid or foil and leave to marinate. At room temperature, this will take 1-1.5 hours, but you can leave the meat in the marinade overnight in the refrigerator.
When the grill is already smoking, and the coals have burnt out enough, remove the meat and onions from the marinade and thoroughly clean everything that has stuck to them. Thread meat and onion alternately on skewers. Onion rings, which, most likely, have already turned into ribbons, need to be well fixed on the skewer - wrap them tightly around the skewer, and then secure by sticking the ends with your finger.
Cook shish kebab on well-burnt, "gray" charcoal. The heat should be even, so before putting the barbecue on the grill, thoroughly break up the large coals. And stock up on a bottle of water - to shoot down the flames if this happens.
Good lamb roasts very quickly - 8-10 minutes will be enough. The kebab needs to be turned over once in the middle of cooking, twisting and turning has no practical meaning. Readiness can be checked by cutting one of the pieces - inside the meat should be pinkish, but without blood.
After frying, let the kebab stand for at least 5-10 minutes (I understand that it is difficult when they look at you with hungry eyes, but this way the kebab will be juicier). Then serve with grilled vegetables and herbs.