Thursday, August 02, 2007

Seasoned Skewers

On a trip up to Maine to see my parents this past weekend we celebrated my upcoming birthday a little early. True to past form, bbq equipment played a heavy theme this year. Rather then one round up of the fun new grilling widgets, I thought I would examine one at a time. First up, the interesting Seasoned Skewers: naturally flavored wooden skewers for infusing flavor and aroma into kabobs.

Seasoned Skewers

The box came with three different flavors: citrus rosemary, garlic herb and mexican fiesta. For tonight's trial we were making kabobs out of chicken jalapeno sausages, mushrooms and peppers, and I chose the garlic herb skewers to go with it. My assumption was that the flavor wouldn't be able to compete very well with the flavored chicken sausage, and that the peppers have so little contact area with the skewer that there wouldn't be much transfer to those either. The mushrooms however have a nice neutral flavor, absorbent flesh and abundant contact area. The next time I experiment with these skewers I plan on using a more neutral ingredient combination such as some slightly seasoned chicken or shrimp.


The skewers come with a small recipe book and some nice packaging. The aroma after opening the vacume sealed plastic pouce that each flavor comes in was quite strong but appealing. The skewers are wide and flat, presumably to help transfer the flavor via more surface area. The instructions said to let the kabobs sit for 15 minutes before grilling, so I went out and lit up ol' Smokey Joe.

Smokey Joe

The chicken sausage comes precooked, so we're really just heating things up and adding some nice grill color. Because of this I let the veggies, particularly the sensitive mushrooms, define how long the kabobs stayed on the grill. We were having some corn too so I let that cook by itself for awhile before adding the kabobs. Total cooking time was roughly 20m, probably only half of that actually involving the kabobs. I'm not going to embed the photo here because some people might find it incredibly gross, but while the grill was working its magic Cassie and I observed an enormous, lepoard spotted slug emerge from a hole in the pavement. If that sounds like something you'd be interested in seeing a good macro photo of, click here and here.

Corn n Kabobs

When we took the food off the grill the aroma garlic herb aroma was noticeable and pleasent. It didn't seem artificial as I had assumed it would. When we sat down to eat my expectations regarding how the ingredients would react to the flavor was pretty accurate. The strong hot pepper flavor of the sausage dominated, the peppers didn't have much flavor to them, and the mushrooms were strongly flavored. What I hadn't counted on was the actual aroma that the skewers delivered to the kabobs. Even the sausage had a deliciously interesting aroma to it. I'm looking forward to trying the other two flavors, and hopefully tailoring some more interesting combo recipes to their specific qualities. Overall I would say that despite appearing to be slightly gimmicky on first pass, these skewers can really add some aromatic presence to the proper kabob ingredients.

Chicken Sausage Kabobs

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Posted by Nat Tarbox. 2 comments

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Night Grilling

Looking ahead to the New Years weekend, it became clear that any grilling that was to occur over the next week must be accomplished tonight. Seeing as how Matt and myself both work long office hours, this necessitated a night grilling session. Once a common occurence at my old apartment, under the protective front porch awning complete with outdoor lighting, we were breaking new ground here on Fairbanks Street. Fortunately, a high-output halogen illuminates the back alley to some extent. Urban grilling is fraught with such situations.

I had a lot of Christmas presents to utilize. Most importantly, my good internet buddy Meg who works for Vienna Beef in Chicago had sent a holiday package of delicious meat goodies. She also passed along a recipe for bourbon and bbq cocktail weenies. This was a must try.

My parents, in typical humorous-gift form, had given me a 'marinade syringe' and some associated sauces. Basically it looks like something you'd use to give an elephant a vaccine. We decided to try this out on the neutral canvas of some free-range chicken breasts. I used a honey mequite marinade, and also a cajun spice rub, both of which had been boxed with the 'marinade syringe':

First impressions on the meat syringe. These were good sized chicken breasts. I usually trim them to smaller sizes so people can be flexible in portions, and also so they can sit in more marinade. In this case I didn't, and the syringe still seemed a little large for them. You had to get it in just right to keep it from pouring sauce out the side of the chicken. The meat would sort of expand around the syringe and darken from the sauce.

As for the bbq and bourbon weenies (Whiskey Weenies?), I mixed 1/4 cup of Jim Beam (yee haw!) with 1/2 cup of bbq sauce, and shook them up in a tupperware container. We cooked these in a foil bag over the coals. Also debuting on the grill tonight from Vienna Beef were some delicious polish sausage (kinda like big hot dogs), which we ate while everything else was cooking. And I tried making the same potatos from earlier this month, but for some reason they didn't cook as well. I think the foil bag was too thick, or I had used too many potatos.

The cajun spice rub was really high in salt content, which sort of offset whatever benefit the meat syringe might have offered flavor-wise. The bourbon weenies were good, but obviously could have benefitted from a long marinade. They seem to be more of a party dish than something for casual grilling too. Delicious none the less. As far as the meat syringe goes, I'm guess at this point its intended for large items, like whole chickens or turkeys, and probably good for wild game. For the smaller meat cuts that we generally cook around here, it seems a little cumbersome.

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Posted by Nat Tarbox. 0 comments