Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Anatomy of a Russian BBQ

I wanted to write a post about how to properly create the delicacy that is "Shashlik".  But with the research, all the different kinds, all the very important stipulations and rules surrounding its proper creation, I'd probably not only be writing for a week and a half straight, but I'd bore you to tears.  Because no one can make cooking meat THAT funny.  Seriously - there's a russki-rule against it.  Only slight chuckles allowed.  Belly laughs strictly forbidden.

So instead, I wanted to give you just one tiny slice into how one family prepares it, as literally EVERY family does it differently. 

And not just a little bit differently like with burgers.  You put cilantro in the ground beef, you say?  Putting butter on the bun before grilling?  Whoa - shakin' the foundation here.  You're still using beef, right?  In a circular patty?  Psh.

No, I'm talking WAY different.  For example, my family only chooses the highest quality meat: pork ass.  Apparently, my FIL thinks that the fat that's contained within that sweet swine rump soaks up the marinade so much better than anything else out there.  But other families prefer the juicy tenderness of veal or lamb or even fish. 

Sometimes I'm glad we don't live on a farm, because I could seriously imagine my FIL there in the pig pen, eyes closed and face pressed closely to the ass of the pig, and rubbing it lovingly.  Best Jew ever. 

The next most important part of my family's unique Shashlik tradition is the marinade.  Apparently, this needs to be done the night before the grill gets fired up so that the fat can sufficiently soak up the juices.  Again.  VASTLY different methods exist. My FIL describes some people who marinade with seltzer, or with yogurt, or with a crazy Milk/yogurt mix called Kefir.

My family opts for just vinegar, onions, salt and pepper.  This way the taste of swine butt can REALLY come through.  Then you're supposed to put the meat under pressure by placing a huge weight on the pot where they're marinading.  This aides in the soaking up of the juices. Don't ask me how this works.  I know it's counter intuitive.  You wouldn't squeeze the sponge to get more water in it, but apparently this is how it is with meat.

Ok, now you're ready for grilling.  No, don't even THINK of using gas.  People have been killed for using propane for shashlik.  And hands off the charcoal briquettes.  You have to use wood based charcoal.  This way it makes the meat taste as if you really just cooked it in the middle of the woods.  Never seen wood based charcoal before?  Hmm, strange.  Because it's the ONLY charcoal sold in the Grocery Store.

Oh god, I'm drooling just looking at this picture from last weekend

Notice anything strange about the skewers?  They're not some wussy round skewers purchased to cook stupid crap like eggplants or peppers.  These are home-effing-made flat skewers specially designed to sear the ass of all pigs they come into contact with.  They also double as fencing epees, though, in a pinch.  Or javelins.  Tent stakes.  Ear piercing mechanisms.  You get the idea - they're sharp.

Seriously, I'm having hunger pains just thinking about how delicious the picture looks. 

Best summer tradition ever.  The first time I ever had shashlik, they were so delicious I ate three or four pieces at once.  They got stuck in my throat and I had to lie down for thirty minutes because they wouldn't dislodge themselves.  I think it was the second time I met my wife's parents.  It was at that moment that my FIL knew I was the one for him.

Happy summer everyone, and welcome to Shashlik Country.


  1. Holy crap. Yum... I can't eat pork... would I be executed for trying this method w/ chicken? We actually have some skewers like yours - they're turkish, and Heaven forbid my 6 year old son and 30 year old DH find where I've hidden them, the Princess Bride quality battles would be endless.

  2. for the marinade we use vine, a bit of vinegar (yeah, never really understood how they could possibly go together - but, somehow, they do), onions and lemon. and salt-and-pepper, yaeh, you don't do shahlik without them. and you absolutely must sprinkle some vine over the grilling shahlik! it adds to the taste and smell :0)
    and yaeh, I'm also drooling all over the laptop just looking at your photo. oh, what have you done to me, posting it! I still have 2-3 hours till dinner, and i'm already hungry!

  3. I actually just ran out of Kefir yesterday. So yummm.

    Anyway, I would be sitting right next to your father-in-law caressing the pig's butt. Loooove it! But is pork kosher? I thought it wasn't, but I don't know. Anyway, I heart me some pork. Did I mention that yet?

    Love the skewers, we use the same kind.

    And we use only wood based charcoal as well.

    Oh man, now I am drooling and have been postponing my own breakfast for a few hours now.

  4. @evin - i've been tempted to misuse those things SO many times it's ridiculous.

    @vera - ooh, lemon...that sounds like a brilliant idea!

    @polprairiemama - Yeah, pork definitely is not kosher. but my FIL will go to any length for pork, even if it means eternal damnation.

  5. Love the skewers! You need to write a cook book.

  6. OMG - that is so awesome. "best JEW ever." Loved this post.

  7. @ stasha - haha, thanks. but I'm no cook. I'm just a second hand connoisseur. My cook book would include PB&J. and even then i'd have to google the ingredients.

    @Mommy Lisa - he's an inspiration to all jews who love pork.

  8. Are those skewers legal??

    Cuz I don't think you're supposed tohave them in your house.

    Your wife is some kind of wonderful, if you do..

  9. I don't eat pork and I certainly don't eat ass, but you just made pork ass sound and look yummy!

  10. We grilled hot dogs on our grill a couple days ago. Does this mean we can never use it for shashlik?

  11. does one go about making homemade skewers? I'd like a tutorial please.

  12. Ahem.

    I would like the tutorial to come in vlog form. From Irina's dad.

  13. Those meat sticks look phenomenal. That's what she said. *fist bop*

  14. @The Empress - I've got a permit to carry skewers, i'm in the clear.

    @Alison - Yeah, neither do my in-laws...on paper at least. Lamb is just as good in my opinion!

    @Vicki - hmmm, were they hebrew national? i'm not sure if that matters. it's got "hebrew" in it, so I guess that makes it awesome.

    @KLZ - I'll venture in the den of the beast if you supply the top shelf tranquilizer.

    @Amanda - best comment award! long distance high five!

  15. Yum. I'm so freaking hungry now and lunch isn't for another three hours.


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