The Japanese call them “kushi yaki.” Moroccans say “brochettes.” In Spain, it’s “pinchos.” South Africans prefer the word “sosaties.” Indonesians use the term “sates.” But here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., we call them “shish kebabs,” derived from the Turkish word “sis” (pronounced shish), meaning skewer, and the Arabic word “kebap,” meaning roasted meat.
Typically, the kebap that comes off my sis is some type of game. Venison and bear are superb when cooked “en brochette,” and I often use pieces of duck, goose and rabbit and the breasts of small gamebirds like dove and quail, which yield equally delicious results. You can prepare everything well in advance, and because small pieces of meat are used, the cooking time is short — just what the doctor ordered when your camping buddies or dinner guests are complaining of hunger pains.
At the heart of every shish kebab is the skewer, the implement used to pierce and hold the meat and/or other foods you’re cooking together. This may be nothing more than a sharpened green stick cut fresh from a bush or tree, but most of us are more likely to use bamboo skewers (that are soaked in water before using so they won’t burn) or a set made of stainless-steel, both of which are readily available in most discount stores. The stainless-steel variety come in many styles, including some with elaborate, beautifully decorated handles that will lend a special touch of class to your dinner presentation. There are also special shish kebab rotisserie units that will continuously turn several skewers of food over the fire while they cook and shish kebab cook sets with metal frames that suspend several skewers directly above the cooking surface of your grill. The latter allow you to easily turn the food for even doneness.
Related: The Art of Brining Wild Game
Of course, nothing elaborate is necessary when cooking shish kebabs. If you prefer, you can just thread the food on the skewer and place it directly on the grill or on a cooking grid over a campfire. To prevent the meat from sticking, I like to first rub the cooking surface with olive oil or a piece of bacon. And though some prefer to cook meat and vegetables threaded alternately on each skewer, I prefer to keep meat and veggies separate so each can be cooked to the proper doneness.
All that being said, it’s time to get to the meat of the matter. Here are some of my favorite recipes for you to try.
Deer on a Spear
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon catsup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pounds cubed venison loin or steak
Combine the first six ingredients and pour over the venison cubes in a zip-seal plastic bag. Marinate for at least eight hours in the refrigerator, turning the meat several times. Remove the meat from the refrigerator, drain and thread on skewers. Grill to desired doneness over a medium fire. Serves 4 to 6.
6 duck breasts, sliced in strips 1-inch wide
1 cup teriyaki
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Louisiana hot sauce (optional)
Bacon strips, cut in 1-inch pieces
Mix the teriyaki, soy sauce and hot sauce and pour in a zip-seal plastic bag. Add the duck strips and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Drain off the marinade. Roll each strip of duck like a little jelly roll and slide onto a skewer. Add a bacon piece between each piece of duck. Continue adding duck, then bacon, until each skewer is full. Season to taste with lemon pepper and garlic powder, and grill over low heat until done to taste. Serves 3 to 6.
2 pounds boneless cubes of rabbit meat
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 stick butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients except rabbit in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shake vigorously. Thread rabbit pieces on skewers, and brush with the oil-herb mixture while grilling over medium heat. Cook until done to taste, basting frequently. Serves 4 to 6.
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
10 gamebird breasts (dove, quail, etc.)
Fresh-ground black pepper
In a saucepan, melt butter and combine with lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce. Sprinkle bird breasts with onion salt and pepper, then dip in the butter mix, coating on all sides. Wrap each breast in a half strip of bacon, place on skewers and grill over medium heat until done to taste, turning and basting occasionally. Serves 3 to 5.
Related: Elk Steak Roll-Ups Recipe
Featured photo: iStock