Satay what? Relax – they’re only kebabs, Dad

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father’s Day is tomorrow, and I know grilling is the thing fathers like to do, but I thought one could do a little something different by grilling satays (really kebabs) which use Southeast Asian flavors and some Indian flavors also.

There is really nothing more delicious than satay fresh off the grill, when the skewers of seasoned meats are hot, juicy and infused with the flavor of smoldering charcoal. Satay is the ultimate Southeast Asian snack, but satay is believed to be a descendant of the kebabs that Middle Eastern merchants introduced to Java, in western Indonesia, in the eighth century.

There are usually three styles of satay: pork satay from Thailand, usually sweet with coconut milk, chicken satay, marinated with lots of spices from ginger to fennel to coriander, and beef or goat satay, usually marinated with tamarind to help tenderize it.

In Southeast Asia, satay is the ultimate fast food. You’ll find it sizzling over hot coals practically 24 hours a day – at night markets, in busy hawker stalls, or offered by mobile venders who prepare it to order. These cooks carry bamboo rods across their shoulders, balancing a basketful of the marinated meat and condiments on one side and a small grill filled with hot coals on the other. Within minutes the skewers are charred and ready to eat.

Many chefs have taken satay to a new level by mixing different ingredients and making it their own. You can do this at home, just using a marinade of things you like and using the meat of choice and skewering it and firing up the grill. The satays usually have condiments and dipping sauces which bring it all together.

I tried several different satays last week and thought the results were really tasty. I also did a cucumber and carrot pickle that went very well with the satays. These are easy to do for Father’s Day…you do the satays and let Dad do the grill.

These recipes are taken form the May Issue of ‘Saveur’ magazine.

Muu Satay

(Thai Pork Satay)

Makes 10 skewers

1 cup coconut milk

3 tbsp. chopped lemongrass (I grow my own. If you can’t find it, use some lemon zest.)

1 tbsp. coconut oil

1 tbsp. dark brown sugar

1 ½ tsp. ground turmeric

1 ½ tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. ground cumin

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

12 oz. pork loin, cut into 1”-wide, ½ “thick slices

Puree ½ cup coconut milk, lemongrass, oil, sugar, turmeric, coriander, salt, cumin, and cayenne in a food processor.

Toss paste and pork in a bowl; chill for four hours.

Build a hot charcoal fire in a grill. Pour remaining coconut milk in a bowl and stir to combine.

Thread three slices pork each on 10 skewers, dip in coconut milk, and grill, turning, until charred, about seven minutes.

Reshmi Kebab

(Indian Chicken Kebab)

Makes 6 skewers

1 ½ lb. ground chicken

2 tbsp. finely chopped garlic

2 tbsp. finely chopped ginger

1 tbsp. hot paprika

¼ cup blanched almonds

1 ½ tbsp. heavy cream

1 tbsp. garam masala

¾ tsp. ground cardamom

¾ tsp. ground allspice

1 egg white, lightly beaten

2 tbsp. canola oil

1 yellow onion, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a bowl, mix chicken, garlic, ginger and paprika; let sit 30 minutes.

Place almonds in a bowl and cover with boiling water; let sit 10 minutes.

Drain and puree in a food processor with cream, garam masala, cardamom, allspice, and egg white; transfer to chicken mixture.

Heat oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat; add onions and cook, stirring, until deeply caramelized, about eight minutes.

Stir into chicken mixture; season with salt and pepper.

Build a hot charcoal fine in a grill.

Divide chicken mixture into six portions; form each around the length of a flat metal skewer.

Grill, turning, until charred, for four to five minutes.

Acar Timum (Javanese Cucumber and Carrot Pickle)

Makes about 2 ½ cups

1 ½ tbsp. kosher salt

3 shallots, thinly sliced

1 ½ cucumbers, cut into 2 inch long x 1/4 inch wide sticks

1 large carrot, cut into 2 inch long x 1/4 inch wide sticks

2 ½ tbsp. sugar

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

2 green Thai chilies, sliced thin

Stir together salt, shallots, cucumbers, carrots, and 2 cups boiling water in a bowl. Let sit 15 minutes; drain.

Squeeze out liquid and transfer to a bowl; stir in sugar, vinegar and chilies.

Let sit 15 minutes.