Now that grilling season is fully underway and we’ve had our fill of steak, burgers and hot dogs (for a little while), it’s time to get our kebab game going.
Versatile and fun, kebabs are one of my favorite foods to toss on the grill because they can be infused with so much flavor since the pieces are cut small (or should be!). Small pieces of meats or vegetables allow a marinade or rub to penetrate much more effectively than larger cuts — and that means more flavor.
Small pieces also allow any glaze you’re basting onto them to settle into all the nooks and crannies of the kebab. Again, resulting in more flavor.
While the options for what goes on the skewer are endless — beef, lamb, pork and all sorts of vegetables work well — when it comes to chicken, boneless, skinless thighs are by far the best.
Chicken breasts dry out and get tough if left on the grill for even a minute too long. I stick with the thighs, which stay juicy and tender, even if they accidentally get slightly overcooked.
This week’s recipe, Coconut Ginger Chicken Kebabs, employs those thighs to great effect.
A quick marinade is made in the blender by pureeing coconut milk, ginger, chiles, cilantro and garlic. Lime juice and brown sugar are also added to give it just the right sweet-tart balance.
Half the marinade is poured over the cubed chicken, while the other half is simmered on the stove until slightly thickened, then basted onto the grilled chicken as it’s cooking.
I like to serve these kebabs with jasmine rice. Since the marinade only uses a partial can of coconut milk, I use the rest to replace some of the water used to cook the rice, which gives it added flavor.
The marinade and glaze can be made up to one day ahead, but don’t marinate the chicken for more than four hours, as the acidity will toughen the protein if left for too long.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.
Coconut Ginger Chicken Kebabs
Note: Packed with flavor, these kebabs, infused with coconut milk, fresh ginger, lime juice and cilantro, are terrific served with coconut rice. Just replace some of the water used to cook the rice with the coconut milk leftover in the can after you’ve made the marinade. Allow time to marinate the chicken and to soak wooden skewers, if that’s what you’re using. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 c. coconut milk (NOT cream of coconut)
• 1/4 c. fresh lime juice
• 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
• 1 (2-in.) piece fresh ginger, peeled
• 3 garlic cloves
• 1 serrano chile, seeded
• 1/4 c. fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
• 3 tbsp. light brown sugar
• 1 tsp. salt
• 2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut in 2-in. pieces
• 6 skewers
• Lime wedges, for serving
Combine coconut milk, lime juice, oil, ginger, garlic, serrano, cilantro, brown sugar and salt in a blender. Purée until smooth. Reserve half of the marinade. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use. Place chicken in a bowl and combine with remaining marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 4 hours (definitely no longer or the meat will get tough).
Soak wooden skewers in water for 1 hour, or use metal skewers.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring reserved marinade to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced by half and slightly thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove glaze from heat.
Heat a charcoal grill or set a gas grill to high; bank coals or turn off burner on one side. Oil grates. Thread chicken onto 6 to 8 skewers, giving a little space between each piece of meat.
Grill over direct heat, turning every minute or so, until beginning to char in spots, about 3 to 4 minutes total. Move to cooler side of grill and continue to grill, turning frequently and basting with glaze, until cooked through, about 5 minutes longer.
Transfer kebabs to a serving platter. Garnish with cilantro and serve with lime wedges on the side.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 330 Fat 18 g
Sodium 520 mg Carbohydrates 9 g
Saturated fat 9 g Added sugars 4 g
Protein 32 g Cholesterol 145 mg
Dietary fiber 1 g
Exchanges per serving: ½ carb, 4 ½ lean protein, 2 fat.