If you eat wild meats like Sue and I do, you already know how tricky it can be to get the most out of them when you're cooking outdoors over an open flame. The meat is so lean, it's quite unforgiving on the grill. One second you've cooked your venison steak to perfection, the next second it's gone too far and turned leathery on you. This isn't the kind of grilling where you can go inside for another beer and leave the flame unattended. You need to have your cooler next to the grill and be there with tongs at the ready. The good news is, wild game cooks very quickly over high heat, so you probably won't need another beer before it's finished.
I love shish kebabs. As a kid growing up near Boston, I remember the lamb shish kebabs they serve at Santarpio's Pizza of East Boston. They are simple; cubed lamb skewered without distracting and unnecessary vegetables, held over glowing hardwood embers by a sweaty old guy named Gino (I made that name up, but he is sweaty and old). The intense heat puts a smoky, char on the edges, but the meat stays pink and moist in the center. It's wonderfully "lamby" with a satisfying undertone of onion essence, despite the fact there is no onion to be found on the skewer. They are the mark when it comes to shish kebab.
That mysterious onion flavor has confounded and haunted me until I opened up Soheila Kimberley's "Taste of the Middle East," published in 1996. There, I learned about the Persian method of marinating meat overnight in a simple blend of grated onion and saffron water. Kimberley uses lamb or beef fillet for her "kabab bahrg" whose origin is Iranian. I, of course, substitute a high quality venison roast or loin. Otherwise, I stick to the script, which goes like this...
- 1 pound venison roast, cut into strips about 1/2-inch thick and 1-1/2-inches long
- 2-3 saffron strands
- 1 large onion, grated
- 1 Tbsp butter, melted
- 3 Tbsp sumac to garnish
- cooked rice (or couscous) to serve
|Holy onion juice! That's ruined, right?|
Melt your butter and bring it out with a basting brush to paint the kebabs as they cook. Season the venison skewers with salt and pepper. I cook the kebabs over a high flame with the lid down for five or six minutes, then flip them over and finish the grilling for another five or six minutes. I know this sounds like a long time for such thinly sliced venison, but that's why you packed them so tightly on the skewer and baste them with the butter periodically until it's gone. The outside of the meat gets a perfect crust while the inside is pink and juicy.
|A mediocre picture of a superb dish.|
What you end up with is a shish kebab even Gino would be proud of.