Chicken Koobideh Kabobs
Koobideh are Persian ground meat kabobs, so a bit different from the normal US fare, but they’re delightfully rich and aromatic. Cooked on the grill, it’s the perfect sort of dish for a hot summer’s night.
For this version I used chicken, but it would work easily as well with lamb. Ground beef…maybe but I haven’t tried it (yet)
Shown here with naan and a cucumber-mint dip. [edit: I have an actual lavash flatbread recipe now, which goes better]
Serves about 4 people.
- 2lbs chicken thighs with the skin on (or ground chicken)
- 2 onions
- black pepper
- saffron (from the nearest Middle Eastern market,
not the grocery store)
So I gotta admit up front that this isn’t perfect. What I mean by that is that I think my mix was a bit wet because it didn’t want to stay on the skewers. Not a huge deal, but something I’m going to have to practice. Stuff happens, yanno?
It’s also worth mentioning that I use chicken thighs. Honestly, I cook with them a lot more often than chicken breasts any more for two main reasons: (1) they have more flavor, and (2) they’re slightly cheaper. Here, I’m using thighs with the skin on because it also adds fat, and another level of flavor.
Before I begin, I’m going to highly, highly recommend a meat grinder. You can do this with ground chicken and chopping all the bits up real small, but the grinder both does the texture of everything evenly and also starts to get everything mixed up good.
But, to start: grate yer onions. I know I just extolled the virtues of a meat grinder, but we want them a bit finer than that (i.e., not remotely chunky).
Then, de-bone your chicken. It doesn’t have to be pretty, and it doesn’t matter if the skin falls off since it’s all going into the hopper anyway. Slice the chicken into strips so it feeds better.
I mentioned in the shopping list that saffron should be bought at a Middle Eastern market. This is because you need cooking saffron, which you can get there for $15/lid vs thegrocery store where 4 sprigs in individual little capsules cost over $20. You’d need all that saffrons for this dish, and if you’re also making something like saffron rice, you’d need another bottle. That’s a pretty posh meal, yanno?
Either way, the saffron is actually special. You can’t just tip it in the mix, because it’ll go nowhere. Instead, soak it in a tablespoon or three of warm water while you’re doing other stuff to let the oils out (at least a few minutes)
So, dump everything into a bowl, along with the seasonings:
- about a half bunch fresh parsley, chopped super-small
- maybe 6-7 cloves of garlic. If you use a decent jar galic (like Christopher Ranch) a tablespoon or two
- a heavy pinch of black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- a heavy 1/2 tsp tumeric
- your saffron water
Now, crank up the grinder and start feeding the beast. When everything is passed through and into a bowl, give a good few stirs to make sure everything is mixed well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it all chillax in the fridge for an hour or so, so it’ll be easier to work with down the road. At the same time prepare some skewers (if they’re the bamboo type they’ll need to soak in water for an hour or two so they become less burny).
Once the sticks are wet and the mix is cold, line a cookie sheet with wax paper and start shaping the kabobs around the skewers. I recommend keeping your hands wet, because that stuff sticks to everything. You should end up with somewhere between 8-12 like small cattails.
(Note: this was my first pass and they came out a bit large. Pretend there are nine kabobs here)
Once the kabobs are formed, put them back in the fridge to rest. Keeping them cool helps them keep their shape longer. The freezer is fine too, so long as they don’t get frozen.
While you’re waiting, now is probably a good time to putter around and do stuff like get the grill ready. If you’re going to use the grill to cook other stuff (like, say, naan) you’ll want to do them first anyway.
Grilling is pretty straight-forward. You don’t want the fire too hot, but direct heat is okay. It’s a good idea to oil the grate as well to help keep the kabobs from sticking. And if the kabobs don’t stay on the stick don’t despair as they’ll taste exactly the same.