Years ago, my family would attend these huge picnics where hundreds of Greek families would gather at a park somewhere north of Toronto. Anyone remember Green River? 101 International Park? Each family would pack coolers with provisions for the day: soft drinks, water, beer and wine, salads, rice, Spanakopitas, Tyropitas, bread, cheeses and lots of fruit like watermelon, canteloupe and grapes.
The car trunk filled up pretty quickly and one could never forget the stand-up round grill or smaller hibachi, charcoal, lighter fluid and the protein of choice for the day. The centerpiece of the day’s feast was the BBQ. I remember my dad in shorts, no shirt and getting dirty from handling the charcoal and lighting the BBQ. Newspaper, lighter fluid and matches. A vigorous wave over the smoking coals would give way to a plea for the man’s arms to rest and for the the charcoal to morph into glowing embers.
Once the BBQ situation was under control, it was grilling time. Beef shish kebab it was, usually. I remember these big cubes of beef that my mom would marinade overnight in a concoction that surely contained one of my uncle’s rough n’ ready red wine. There was garlic, there was onions, seasoning and likely the will of the Greek cook who finds nothing wrong with throwing oregano into everything!
I’ve longed for this beef shish kebab for awhile and the time is here. Tomorrow is Canada Day (Canada turns 143) and my American friends follow with July 4th celebrations this weekend. Allow me to share and recommend trying this recipe the next time you light up your grill. The marinade is easy, you get to use some more economical cuts of beef as the marinade will do some of the work for you and some simple skewering of vegetables and beef on metal or wooden skewers is all that’s needed.
A beef shish kebab benefits the most by not overdoing it. The marinade consists of few ingredients – ones that complement beef’s flavour. You have diced onions, minced garlic, a touch of honey, sweet paprika, black pepper, fresh thyme or oregano (try and avoid using dry as it may burn and become bitter), red wine, olive oil and some good beef stock. My family always has some roast beef jus frozen from leftovers. It comes in handy for stews, making gravy or for a shish kabob marinade. Combine all these ingredients together, add just enough salt (if needed at all) to adjust taste and reserve about a 1/4 of the marinade for brushing on your kabobs at the end.
What you end up with are tender but still toothsome pieces of beer with a hint of flavour from the vegetables that are sandwiched in between each cube of beef. You can still taste the wine, a bit of garlic, some onion, some pepper, that fresh Greek oregano and the hint of smoky goodness that only a grill can give. The beef shish kebabs are cooked over high heat (the beef can take it) and the vegetables will cook in the same time that it takes you to grill all the sides of the kebabs.
Your choice of beef is at your discretion. You don’t have to use the most expensive cut here and you shouldn’t use the cheapest either. This beef shish kabob recipe needs the marinade to give you the taste that I remember when I was kid attending the Greek picnics. A sirloin is what I used for this recipe: it’s affordable, has fantastic flavour and the it’s hearty enough to withstand the marinade.
Your shish kebabs only need about 4-6 hours in the marinade. Don’t think that marinading overnight will garner a better result. I tried this years ago and found out my beef’s fibres had broken down too much and resulting meat was soft, almost mealy – unedible. Keep it simple, prepare the marinade, cube your beef and cut up your vegetables on the morning of the day you’re also going to grill.
I served the shish kebabs on a bed of rice baked with mushrooms. For four persons, you need one cup of long-grain rice, a cup of sliced mushrooms, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 1/2 cups of low sodium stock, pinch of black pepper and place in a pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff the rice with a fork, reserve and keep warm. I served this beef shish kekab with a Tsantali Metoxi red.
Beef Shish Kebab
approx. 1kg. of sirloin steak, trimmed of any fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
pieces of red, green peppers and onions, cut to the same diameter as the cubes of beef
metal or wooden skewers (soak the wooden skewers overnight in water)
coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. of honey
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups of low-sodium beef stock
1 cup red wine
1 Tbsp. sweet paprika
4 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
salt to taste
- Rinse and pat-dry your beef. Trim any excess fat and cut up into 1-inch cubes. In a large zip-lock back, add all of the marinade ingredinents and stir to blend. Adjust seasoning, ingredients to taste and reserve 1/4 of the marinade for basting on your shish kebabs later (the marinade should only have a hint of salt in it, as we will season the kabobs before they hit the grill).
- Place your cubes of beef in the marinade and seal. Ensure all the beef is covered with the marinade and place in the fridge for 4-6 hours. Remove from the fridge an hour before grilling so as to allow the beef to return to room temperature.
- Prepare your red and green peppers and onions for skewering. Cut the vegetable into the same size and dimension as the cubes of beef. Skewer a cube of beef then alternate with a different vegetable between each cube of beef. Repeat until all your kebabs and pieces of vegetable have been skewered. Discard the marinade in the bag.
- Pre-heat your gas of charcoal grill. We’re looking for a high heat (count to three when placing your hand over the grill). Brush the grill surface well and wipe the grill surface with a vegetable oil-treated towel just before grilling.
- Season your kebabs with coarse sea salt and some fresh ground pepper. Place on your hot grill and cook for 5 minutes/side or until all sides are seared with some good grill marks. Brush some of the reserved 1/4 marinade on your shish kebabs and plate on a bed of baked rice pilaf with mushrooms.
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