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How To Grill

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Season 1

Show 104: Stick Food

Turks call it shish kebab; Greeks, souvlaki; Russians, shashlik, Italians spedini; and Indonesians, sate. Whatever the name, meat on a stick is the world's most popular form of barbecue and rare is the culture that doesn't enjoy some sort of kebab. This episode focuses on grilling on a skewer and if you think the subject begins and ends with shish kebab, you're in for a surprise.

Today's menu:

  • Shish kebab
  • Chicken sate
  • Cinnamon grilled peaches

Tips - The Skinny on Skewers


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Cooking meat on a stick was the first technological advance in barbecue. It's certainly the most versatile today. Skewers range in size from the tiny bamboo toothpicks used by Koreans to grill garlic cloves to the massive wrought iron T bars used by Argentineans to cook whole sides of beef in front of a campfire.

Ingenious grill jockeys have used an astonishing range of materials to make skewers. Bamboo skewers are preferred in Asia; metal skewers in the West. Portuguese on the island of Madeira use laurel branches as skewers to make espetada (grilled beef and bay leaf kebabs).

Which brings us to some of my favorite skewers for grilling - herb stalks, spice pods, and other long slender seasonings for foods that add flavor to the meat being grilled. So the next time you want to give shish kebab extra flavor, consider using one of these:

  • Sugar cane: Used for grilling Vietnam's popular chao tom (shrimp mouse grilled on sugar cane). When you eat chao tom, you chew on the skewer, which releases an unexpected burst of sweetness-the perfect foil for the briny mousse.
  • Lemongrass stalks: Used by the Balinese to make sate lilit: kaffir lime leaf scented fish or duck mousse grilled on fragrant stalks of fresh lemongrass
  • Rosemary branches: Used by Italians to make spedini. Great for grilling scallops and shrimp.
  • Vanilla beans: great for grilling pineapple and bananas.
  • Cinnamon sticks: Great for grilling peaches (see below)
Warning!!!: When grilling on metal skewers, remove the cooked food from skewer before serving. In either case, never eat meat directly off a metal skewer. You risk burning your lips.

Cinnamon Grilled Peaches printer-ready version

Method: direct grilling
Serves 4

  • 4 large ripe freestone peaches
  • 8 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted buttter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
1. Cut the peaches in half, running the knife in a circular motion around the peach to the stone. Twist the halves in opposite directions to separate them. Pop out the stone with a spoon and discard. Cut each peach half in half. Using a pointed chopstick or metal skewer, make a starter hole in the center of each peach quarter (from outside to pit side). Skewer two peach quarters on each cinnamon stick, placing a mint leaf between each.

2. Prepare the glaze. Combine the butter, sugar, rum, cinnamon, and salt in a saucepan and boil until thick and syrupy, 5 minutes.

3. Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate.

4. Grill the peaches until nicely browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side, basting with the bourbon butter. Serve at once. Peach or vanilla ice cream makes a great accompaniment.

© 2006 Steven Raichlen | site design Benjamin Wilchfort