Food and cooking are really easy topics to discuss. After all, food is a part of our everyday lives. The difference is whether you live-to-eat or eat-to-live. Think about that for a minute. It’s actually a very simple — but powerful — concept to think about. When I meet someone for the first time and the subject of food comes up, I know very quickly which category that person falls into. Of course, I have more of a connection with those who live-to-eat, but it’s always fun to talk to anyone about food.
My Dr. Dentist is just like me. We often talk about food at some point during my routine visits to his office (I have to say that timing is everything, though. Too many dentists want to have a conversation while they work their magic and I’m busy just trying to keep my mouth open for an extended period of time. Ugh! Past dentists and dental hygienists create awkward one-sided conversation, when all I can do is make little grunts or slightly nod my head, with a poor attempt to answer them. But, no….not my dentist or his staff. Now that I think about it, he is kind enough to have these talks before or after performing his craft).
I could tell very early on in our doctor-patient relationship that he genuinely enjoys good food — whether that means eating out at a restaurant or cooking at home. Like most guys, he loves grilling. Like me, he also leans toward eating and cooking on the healthier side — and it shows.
Dr. Dentist enjoys his grilled kabobs and grilled fish. That’s where most of our conversation goes when we do talk “food.” Unfortunately, most of the kabobs I’ve hadare charred, dried up and an unappetizing display of food on a stick. It’s painful to see. For me, the key to making great kabobs is this: Soak, Pack Them Tight, Marinate, and Level of Heat.
• Soak Your Skewers– to prevent the skewers from burning, soak your skewers in water for about thirty minutes prior to skewering your kabob.
• Pack Them Tight– too many cooks try to make the kabobs look so nice before they are cooked, only to have them fall apart once they start cooking. The trick is to get as many pieces of meat/fish and vegetables on each skewer. When you squeeze more in, the skewer cooks as ONE without drying out.
• Marinate– the kabobs need flavor, and marinating them for several hours, or even overnight, depending on the marinade, is ideal. The grilling process is a harsh environment for your food, so the marinade also acts as a barrier to keep them moist, which is another characteristic of a good kabob.
• Level of Heat– most people who grill think it should be at a high heat. This results in a lot of charred food out there! You want the heat to be high enough to add nice grill marks (flavor) without burning the food before it’s finished cooking. So, a medium/medium high heat is usually good, depending on the grill.
If you follow these tips when grilling your kabobs, you will be successful and never have another dried kabob again. Hooray!
Tip: you can also separate your protein and vegetables on different skewers to ensure that they cook evenly. If not, cut your vegetables to a size where everything will finish cooking at the same time. For example, cut that zucchini larger where it will cook at the same rate as the onion, which is denser. Forget the tomatoes — they never work. Grill them separately and use them as garnish over the plated kabobs.
Grilling fish is not as hard as it is made out to be. Follow these key steps and you’ll do just fine:
• Pick the Right Type of Fish– there are certain fish that don’t do well on the grill, such as flounder, which is very flakey and will fall apart during the grilling process. All you need to do is ask the person you are buying the fish from. They will let you know if the fish you are thinking about is good for grilling.
• Clean Grill Grates– make sure there isn’t any food residue on your grill grates. If there is, the fish will stick every time.
• Oil Grill– now that you have clean grill grates, oil them with an oil-soaked paper towel, held with a pair of long tongs. You can’t oil them enough.
• Oil Fish– AFTER you’ve seasoned your fish with salt ‘n pepper, oil the fish right before you put it on the grill. Tip: Hold one side of the fish and slide it over the grill without placing it on it. If it starts to stick, you don’t have enough oil, either on the grill or the fish itself.
• Don’t Play With The Fish– leave the fish alone once you’ve placed it on the grill. The less you move it, the better. Sure, you can slide it forty-five degrees to get the nice cross grill marks and turn it over just once. The goal is to cook it until it is just done, resulting in a very moist fish that will melt in your mouth.
• Don’t Over Cook The Fish- This is probably the hardest to master and just takes practice. Buy an extra filet of fish and pull it off early (what you think is early) and cut into it and look at it. When you do this over-and-over, you will get a hang of it. Just know, most cooks over cook their fish. It should be moist and just barely cooked through for maximum flavor. There’s no magic answer with this one, it just takes practice.
Thanks again Dr. Dentist for not asking for these suggestions while I’m in a horizontal position on your dental chair. Let the grilling begin.
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