27 September 2011

It's Meat!

September 12, 2011
Alhambra, CA


Making the drive to LA after working at Opera San Jose (man, those were some weird times). Sun sends a sharp ray into my eye, courtesy of the over chromed trunk on the back of the SUV in front of me. No restaurant around for at least a dozen miles yet one quick flashback and I "smell" something familiar, thick, weighty.

Courtesy of Morocco's
Oh yes, it's Moroccan food time.

When I did have beef kebabs, they fought against each of my bites with tenderness. They didn't cave and melt like pot roast nor did they demand the masticating attention of a New York steak. It was more like each and every bit of the beef wanted you to take it slow so you could taste the light sting of the salt peppered on top; the generous oil, cumin and paprika laced into the very fabric of the beef; the light streaks of charred goodness on every bit.

But I'm not going to pay 19 bucks for a kebab and some rice--no, sir. And neither will you.

I lifted the following recipes from Food.com (link) and twisted Epicurious's (link) presenting a bit. It serves 5 small Asian people or 4 Asian people with healthy appetites.

Lighting is a bitch at my house

"Moroccan" Beef Kebabs
3/4 cup olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
4 teaspoons salt
1 grated lime peel
juice from 1 limes
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 pounds well-trimmed filet mignon steaks*, cut into 2 or 3-inch cubes
2 pounds chicken breast or thighs, cut into 2 or 3 inch cubes
8 12-inch-long metal skewers
1/2 an onion cut into 2x2 squares
1 green pepper cut into 2x2 squares
1 red pepper cut into 2x2 squares

*Filet mignon is actually very cheap. For us Monterey Park natives, there's a Chinese market, 168 Market (link). Price per pound goes about 5.99, provided you buy the entire damn tenderloin.

First, you'll want to pour the oil, garlic, cilantro, salt, peel, juice, pepper, paprika, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon and sugar into a big Ziploc freezer bag. Be sure to cut out the pulp from the lime and throw it in as well. Mix that stuff in the bag until the granules are nigh invisible.

Second, remove the silver skin off your steak; slice the steak into cubes; and toss all of them into the bag.

Third, rinse your chicken, remove the fat and what have you, cube em, toss em into the bag.

Now... you wait.


While they're marinating (and you're going to need a straight hour and a half to do this proper), it's best to prepare the fixin's. For the rice, I chose to make it a fried-rice instead of the proper boiling (again, you can go to Food.com for an excellent recipe). Making the stuff by boiling it is definitely the smarter way to go but, if you're like me and can't have enough fat in your diet, follow my instructions below.

"Moroccan" Fried Rice
4 or 5 strands of saffron
1/2 cup beef stock
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup sweet yellow corn
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch chili powder or ground flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black peppercorn
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups already-made Basmati rice*
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

4 pinch salt

*Got this tip from Cook's Illustrated: you'll want day old, refrigerated rice. It dries out in the fridge and is more receptive to your efforts. If your rice isn't old, it turns out mushy during frying.

Tip: Frying rice happens quickly so prepare everything in advance (I've forgotten the French term for it, someone feel free to tell me). You'll want to put the rice in a big bowl, all the spices, salt and pepper in a pinch bowl, onions and corn in separate containers.

First, pour the beef stock into a large wok (or enormous sauce pan) and get it up to simmer. Turn off heat and toss in the saffron and let it do the magical thing saffron does for about 3 minutes. Then pour the saffron-broth mix over the rice.

Second, heat up the wok at high, drip the oil down the sides to lubricate the steel of your passion. and just as it's beginning to smoke: onions! FSHHHH! toss them around until they become a little translucent and then throw in the corn. Toss everything around a bit more.

Third, turn down the heat, Pacino, you'll need it at medium-high. Throw in the garlic and stir until you can smell the garlic cooking (10 seconds). Now toss in your spices and salt and stir like the Tasmanian devil til you can really smell the oil and spices mix. It's not very subtle.

Fourth, toss in your rice soaked in saffron and broth. Make sure all of it gets int the wok. Stir the rice with a wooden spoon and spatula to break it apart. The technique's a bit weird--you'll want to hold each tool in one hand and constantly upturn the rice inside the wok to soak up all the spices and flavorings. You'll see clumps so feel free to break them apart with your spoon. It don't hurt their feelings none. You may need a tablespoon or 2 more of oil to loosen up the rice--it will be excessive to use any more.

Fifth, once you get an even coloring, throw in 3 tablespoons of the cilantro. Stir fry for a bit more until you can smell the cilantro hiding in the spices.

Sixth, put the rice on the plates in little neat mounds, garnish with a pinch of chopped cilantro and sprinkle a dash of salt over it. Do not skip the salt sprinkle--I promise you your experience will not be the same without.


Back to the Kebabs!

Fourth, preheat your grill to ultra-hot. Should be 450 if you can get it there.

Fifth, pull out the meats from the bag and arrange them onto your skewers. You can see the above for the general idea on the order. It doesn't matter too much other than making absolute sure that you're packing that kebab TIGHT. And when I say tight, I mean it in CAPS. This has to be a sword of meaty justice, glimmering with fatty hope in the halcyon rays of days forever good and true.

Sixth, place the kebabs on the grill. Close the lid, turn down the heat to medium high and wait for 7 minutes. Turn over and wait another 7. Then a quarter, wait for 4. then another quarter, wait for 4. You'll want to watch out for the chicken, it cooks a little fast so you may want to skip on the quarter turns for them.

Seventh, place them on your plate, next to your rice and on top of a green of some kind. I chose a bed of spinach. Sprinkle with a dash of salt. I'm not fooling around with this part--DO IT.

Gotta tell ya: some of the nicest leftovers in history.

Bil hana wa ash-shifa.



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