Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yogurt Marinated Lamb Kabobs

There's something special about campfire meals.  It's not difficult to summon man's urge to grill some dead animal while enjoying the outdoors.  Even the simplest concoction like franks and beans (or beenies-n-weenies to some folk) reach new heights when cooked and eaten in the great outdoors.  F&B were always featured in heavy rotation among my camping recipes.  You got some dogs for lunch and you use some of the 8-pack for dinner, combined with a can of beans and a small onion, diced, throw it in a skillet.  Place on a grate over the fire, cook for a bit until nicely warmed through and bubbly.  It helps to lengthen the skillet handle with hockey or duct tape to a broken hockey stick, cut to preferred length, to give yourself a few extra feet from the fire.  Burning hair on your knuckles is quite malodorous, and usually doesn't impress the ladies.  You could also use a halved broom handle or other piece of wood to extend your stirring reach, but that would not be as cool as using a hockey stick.  These snapped twigs can be re purposed as tomato plant stakes as well.    

If I do stop at one of those fast-food places, I'm gonna grab some extra condiments and S&P packets and save them for hitting the local KOA.   Even if you don't like camping, there's always a picnic or some other travel eating event where you can't bring the pepper mill or box of fleur de sel, but you certainly don't have to go without proper seasoning.  People be living like cavemen and shit without S&P.  Camping luxuriously is all about good food and inflatable mats.  So see below and then go here

What do you like to cook while camping? Those hobo packets where you wrap a bunch of stuff in foil and toss in on some red-hot coals for a quarter hour? That's a classic technique for an endless variety of meals.  You go even easier with steaks? Brats? If yuo got one of them fancy propane 2-burner stoves, you can make the best meal of all- an early morning breakfast of pancakes or eggs, sausages or bacon on the grill slathered in maple syrup.  Along with pretty much anything else you could cook on a normal stovetop.  Wash that down with some mostly-ground free coffee from the press, because of course you revived the fire when you woke up.  I've already told you about my favorite camping meal.  What is yours? Maybe these lamb kabobs could be??

Step one- you need 4 things to build a fire suitable for cooking purposes- a combustible substance, such as aged (dry) pine logs, oxygen, a source of ignition, and a tasty adult beverage.  

Yogurt Marinated Lamb Kabobs
2-3 servings

For the yogurt marinade-
20-24 oz greek yogurt, (or regular plain yogurt strained thru cloth for 1 hr)
zest from 1 large lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 TB shallot, thinly sliced
1 ts kosher salt
1/2 ts fresh black pepper
3-4 sprigs mint
3-4 sprigs rosemary

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.  Bruise the herbs a little by squeezing them to bring out the essential oils and thus flavor.  Stir to mix well, if you want to break up the herb sprigs a bit go ahead, I didn't bother.  

For the tzatziki-
3-4 oz yogurt
1/4 C cucumber, seeded and diced
2 ts lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
pinch kosher salt
fresh black pepper

Add all ingredients to a small bowl, mix well.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Chill.

The yogurt marinade with herbs from the garden, and the lemony-garlicky cucumber tzatziki-

1.5 lb lamb loin or shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1" cubes

The loin will be more expensive yet easier to trim, the preferred cut over the harder working shoulder, although use what you can get or what the budget allows.  Sometimes you is broke, sometimes the butcher doesn't have the exact cut you're looking for.  Part of cooking is working with the provisions available.  

Add the lamb to a large, resealable plastic bag, then cover with the yogurt marinade.  Squeeze most of the air out of the bag while sealing, then mix well with your hands for a few minutes to really get everything liking each other and comfy for an overnight stay in the fridge.  At least 8 hours, 12-24 is best.  A day in the cooler, massaging and rotating every now and then to distribute the flavors when you grab another soda pop, that is proper treatment.

Prepare a hot grill while threading the lamb pieces onto metal skewers.  Season with the extra S&P packets from that 2:15AM Taco Bell stop you would rather not mention.  Your grill does not have to be built from a wood fire at a Wisconsin state park, although that is highly recommended.  With the grate oiled, grill the kabobs over medium-high direct heat for 5-6 minutes per side.  I like my young sheep a little past medium, so the chunks of meat are lightly charred on the outside yet still tender on the inside, but not too chewy.  If you like your lamb a bit closer to life, shoot for 4 minutes per side. Throw some pitas on the grill for a literal hot minute, then make some lamb kabob pitas with tzatziki sauce!  That's the way I like to camp. 

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