Sometimes presentation is the game changer at dinnertime. Take a tip from the State Fair and put your meal on a skewer.
Although the midway is quiet, the blue ribbons have all been handed out and the butter sculptures are gone, the spirit of the Minnesota State Fair can continue to live on in our kitchens in the form of food-on-a-stick.
I’m not talking about deep-fried bacon or a batter-coated hot dish. I’m referring to the simple kebab: a piece of meat or vegetable, marinated or not, skewered on a stick and cooked over a grill.
Kebabs are a fun and healthy way to feed your family and a technique that makes it easy get everyone involved in making the meal. Simply lay out a variety of cut-up meats and vegetables, and let the whole family help with the skewering process.
In addition to being delicious, kebabs can be made ahead, making them the perfect dish to serve at the end of summer back-yard barbecue time. Assemble them earlier in the day, stack them on a platter and pop them in the refrigerator. They’ll be ready to go anytime you’re ready to grill.
To ensure that your kebabs are tender and juicy — not tough and dry — here are a few tips to keep in mind when cooking them:
• Marinate: Because skewered meats are cut into small pieces, a flavorful marinade that thoroughly coats the cubes can make a big flavor impression. For that reason I usually find a bold marinade that accents the meat well. Marinating can also help keep the meat moist and tender.
• Let the cubes breathe: Don’t pack your skewers so tightly with meat that it takes a long time to cook them. That would cause your meat to toughen in the lengthy cooking process. Give all the ingredients a bit of space so the heat can get to all sides, which means a shorter cooking time with a nice sear on the entire cube of meat.
• Soak the skewers: Soak them in water in advance so they don’t burn up over the grill.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining.” Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.