Meat on a stick, it doesn’t get more primal, easy or convenient than that. You may call it kabobs, there are also the Brazilian style steak houses and even gyros (which is correctly pronounced yee-ro), meat that cooked on a stick. It’s fun and can make a tasty weeknight dinner on the grill.
The best kabobs I’ve had in Chicago is from Reza’s in River North, great dining experience there, especially if you dine al fresco on Ontario Street. It reminds me of the Gold Coast of my youth in the 80’s, back when Sweetwater, Harry’s Café & Arnie’s when they were the places to see and be seen.
But back to meat on a stick, I made kabobs at home for the first time last week and you can see from the picture it came out good. I was given a plethora of skewers as wedding gifts a few years ago (it was sweet various relatives showered me with grilling gifts), so I tried both the metal skewers (Bobby Flay brand), and the seasoned wood skewers. There are pluses and minuses to both, obviously the metal ones hold up better and are easier to handle (granted with a grill glove, also a wedding gift) but the flavor from a season wood stick is incredible.
Now to prepare the metal skewer needs to be oiled and the wood needs to soak in water, same reason to aid in the cooking of your meat and veggies on the stick. I also oiled and seasoned the steak (it was chopped sirloin), green peppers and russet potatoes and let that marinate for about ten minutes or so, I just let them hang out in small aluminum pans and it gave a nice flavor, not overwhelming, just did oregano, sweet basil and a melody of seasonings (from Penzey’s Spices in Oak Park & Naperville you have to check them out), but nothing too hot, just some mild flavor.
Also in the picture you get a look at my daily driver of a grill, it’s a Weber Q 120, and it runs on the small bottles of fuel (LP, liquid propane), you use for a camping stove or lantern. It’s the perfect weeknight grill for a couple or small family; it can get up to 550 degrees (it has a thermometer mounted on the exterior like a higher end grill), and is perfect for a quick searing heat like the kabobs needed. It makes the steak tender and done (if you like medium steak and I do), and gets your veggies done but not soft like cheap canned veggies.
I basically did a few minutes each side on the kabobs, carefully turned them over and let them get some grill marks and just from seeing the color change and a little finger test (make sure they are firm), then they are done, trust me you will know.
Also I learned from the barbecue man Steven Raichlen (who has a wonderful line of books and shows), to make an aluminum foil ending for the end of the grill while cooking skerwers so they don’t burn up. Now granted he never used season sticks (and I did), and two of my ends broke because the seasonings let the sticks get soft in the high searing heat. But that’s okay, the end result was great and between prep and cook time, it was only 30 minutes.
And let me talk about gyros since we are on meat on a stick, granted you eat gyros in a pita but they cook on a giant rotating stick (how cool is that?), see my dad worked all over the city and he brought home food from all corners of the city, so I was exposed to everything you could imagine. Gyros were and are one of my favorite. Papagus Greek Taverna in River North (and Oakbrook), was a great spot but is no longer there and the Athenian Room in Lincoln Park serves up a nice gyro (as well as other Greek faves), but the best gyros seem to come from little take out places, I must admit Pops on 103rd & Kedzie is my favorite. I went to high school in the area (Brother Rice), so I’ve had my share of Pops and now with many suburban locations, I can get my gyros fix more conveniently. Also Dillinger’s Drive In on 127th Street almost to Bishop Street in Calumet Park (near where I grew up), is also a sentimental favorite but you gotta tell them put the white sauce on the side or they will drown it.
So there you go meat on a stick, try it out and bring out your inner caveman or woman.
Filed under: Chicago