Free-Range Chicken and Veggie Ka-POWS!

Some call these skewers, some call them kebobs, a cute, freckled English guy I once knew named Luke even called them “ke-babs,” (which of course I thought was as cute as he was), BUT these tasty little numbers are so flavorful and emotionally rewarding that I am now officially re-christening them.  Witness Free-Range Chicken and Veggie Ka-POWS!

They're the stars of the show!

They're the stars of the show!

Brace yourself for the greatest summer barbecue experience of your life.  (Look how cocky Punky’s become!)  And I don’t even own a barbecue grill, (or a backyard, for that matter), so I’m also cocky enough to have borrowed one from a friend.  (Fine my wonderful friend Kate had actually INVITED us over for dinner on the grill, but I was still cocky enough to bring my own FOOD to said barbecue and use Kate to experiment on.  Such cockiness.)

But YOU will feel cocky TOO when you make these, because they are easy, healthy, cheap, and BURSTING with flavor!  So get-cher skewers and come with me…

Makes 5 skewers – ahem – 5 “Ka-POWS.”

TOOLS:
Barbecue grill (I don’t know, maybe you could pull this off in your oven broiler?  Give it a try and let me know.)
Big knife
Fork
Cereal bowl
5 skewers
Seal-tight plastic bag
Pan/plate/long dish for soaking the skewers (see below)

INGREDIENTS:
½ lb or more Free-Range Chicken cutlets
1 bell pepper (I used a red one – go as colorful as you like)
½ large onion
5 largish mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
Dijon mustard
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Kosher salt/pepper

RECIPE:
Time: I suggest you prep this whole thing about two hours before you plan to grill, so the veggies and chicken have time to marinate in the fridge.  That’s what I did, anyway.  Requires some advanced planning (not punky) but also means you have time to re-dye your hair and listen to a couple of
PJ Harvey albums before dinner – or to the happy problem debut EP about 6 times in a row at full volume – just to get in the mood.  (Very punky.)

Now, let’s address the skewer question.  If you are fancy and grilly enough to own metal skewers, good for you.  You’re doing a great job of keeping up with the Barbecue Joneses.  (But actually you’re also being good to the environment by not using throwaway wooden skewers, so I say that with only a touch of bitterness and sarcasm this time, not the full tablespoon.  I mean hey, it’s not as flouncy as owning a microplane grater, right?)

(See the recipe for Smoked Salmon Tarts to find out what the hell I’m referring to.)

Okay, but I, like many a punk, don’t have these nice metal skewers, so it was off to the grocery store to get some wooden ones.  And the problem with putting wood over an open flame – if you can’t guess – is that it can catch fire, and that would be a bit too much flamin’ for the ka-powin’ if you know what I mean.  SO, before we do anything else, get out a pan or long plate or some such thing and put water in the bottom, enough to submerge the skewers so they can soak while you’re assembling the rest.  This will make them damp enough to stave-off the hellfire inferno of the grill.

So many paragraphs about skewers!  And this is such an easy recipe – I don’t know why I’m so verbose today.  Maybe because I’m actually typing this on a JetBlue flight to New York, and just watched a fabulous interview with the legendary and inspirational Annie Lennox, who, among other things, made fun of herself for being so “verbose.”  So maybe I’m trying to be just like Annie.

Or maybe I’m just verbose.

Hey, how ’bout you SHUSH and get to the damn recipe already, Punky Chef?  Jesus.

Okay!  So now we’re chopping things, stirring dressing, and shaking it all up in a plastic bag – that’s the plan.  And chop everything else before you do the chicken so you don’t have to wash the big knife and the cutting board in the middle.  (Clever, eh?)

First, cut two wide slices out of the onion – about an inch or so thick – and chop them into little chunks about an inch square, as best you can.  Picture yourself eating these pieces once they’re grilled and you’ve pulled them off the skewer – that’s a good way to know how big you want them.

Next up, the bell pepper.  Run your knife around the top and pull the whole center out, grabbing as much of the seeds as you can.  Reach in and rip out any white “spines” (that’s not what they’re called, but I’m so jacked-up on free cookies and Doritos Munchie Mix on this JetBlue flight right now that I can’t think clearly.)  Anyway you know what I mean.  Pull it all out.  Then chop the pepper in half and into about square-inch sized pieces, like you just did with the onion.  (Obviously some will be pointy or bulbous or triangular – hey it all tastes the same goin’ in so don’t stress too much about this.)

And now for the mushrooms.  Pull the stems off by just popping them out like this:

happy thumbs.

happy thumbs.

It’s such a satisfying sound, you’ll see.  POP.  POP.  POP.  I love it.

If the mushrooms are very dirty, brush them gently with a paper towel or, again if you’re fancy, with a soft “mushroom brush.”  (Yes these things really exist.  EVERYTHING exists at Bed Bath and Beyond, I mean, come on, people.)  Chop each mushroom cap into just three or four pieces – they break really easily when you’re skewering them, so the bigger the better.

Here’s the pretty platter of pre-skewered potential:

such super sections!

such super sections!

Now for the garlic.  See the TIPS section for – well – for TIPS on chopping garlic.  Do this to both cloves, as small as you can chop them, and put them in a cereal bowl.  They’ll be part of the dressing.  Marinade.  Dressing.  Whatever.

And now you can safely chop your chicken.  Just like the veggies,  try to get your pieces about an inch around.  Doesn’t matter that much because you can fold longer pieces and skewer through them if you have to.  Again, picture the size of a bite going into your mouth.  (Kinda gross with raw chicken, but just do it, ok?)

Now for the dressingmarinadedressingstuff!  Glop about two tablespoons of Dijon mustard into the bowl with the garlic and about four tablespoons of the red wine vinegar.  Add two pinches each of kosher salt and pepper.  (And as always, WHY do we use kosher salt?  Because INA GARTEN always uses kosher salt, and when we’re not busy pretending to be Annie Lennox, we are busy pretending to be Ina Garten.)  (And frankly, kosher salt just kicks regular salt’s ass.)  (AND I basically lifted this dressing idea from Ina’s tossed salad vinaigrette recipe – except she uses fancy champagne vinegar – though she insists it’s not fancy – and she also uses words like “emulsify” which, though I’m pretty sure I know what it means, I really should look up just to be sure.)

Okay, now use your fork to stir this all together, and then – very slowly – start adding your olive oil while you keep stirring.  It’s a bit of a coordination challenge, but see how thin you can keep your oil stream, for the best mixage.  This is the part Ina describes as “emulsifying,” so I guess you can say to your friends, “Yo, dudes, check ME out, I’m EMULSIFYING with my bad self.”  Although that sounds pretty dirty, so maybe don’t do that.

Wow – is it possible to OD on Doritos Munchie Mix?  Because I think I just did.

Actually, this was only half as much as I needed (1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon, etc) so I wound up doubling the recipe - but at least you see what it looks like.

Actually, this was only half as much as I needed (1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon, etc) so I wound up doubling the recipe - but at least you see what it looks like.

Okay!  Dressing-marinade complete, and it’s time to throw everything in the plastic bag and mushel.  You know I love the musheling.  I can offer one trick which is to turn the bag inside out and with your hand literally grab as much of the veggies and chicken as you can, then turn the bag back and just fork in the rest.  This saves dirtying another utensil and also brings back warm memories of picking up dog poop, which is just what we want to think about while we’re cooking, eh?

Pour the dressing into the bag, seal it, and then MUSHEL MUSHEL MUSHEL!

Gee, Punky Chef, could you have found a SMALLER bag?  What is this, a marinade THROW PILLOW for chrissake?

Gee, Punky Chef, could you have found a SMALLER bag? What is this, a marinade THROW PILLOW for chrissake?

Try to get that dressing in and around everywhere in there.  Place the bag in the fridge until it’s time to head to Kate’s house for the barbecue, or like I said, about two hours.  Time to repaint your chipped, punky fingernails.  (Jeez – can you see what a mess mine are in that pic?  tsk.  tsk.)

If you do head to a friend’s house, just bring the bag and the damp skewers separately and then assemble it all when you get there.  Only takes a few minutes and it’s much easier (and cleaner) than trying to transport pointy skewers of dripping vegetables.

Punky Chef is ALL about common sense, right my people?

When you’re ready to assemble, just use your fingers to push the pieces onto the skewers in whatever order you like.  I did red pepper,  onion, mushroom, chicken, and I got four rounds onto each skewer, like this:

If raw chicken were sushi, I could just chomp right into one of these babies.  (Eeew.)

If raw chicken were sushi, I could just chomp right into one of these babies. (Eeew.)

And now we GRILL!  I am not a grillmaster (mistress?) by any means, but I’ll just tell you what we did because it worked like a charm.  The grill was set to about medium-high (this was a fancypants gas grill – for regular charcoal I’m at a total loss, but hopefully if you own a grill you’ve earned it by knowing how to use these things, and can improvise from what I’m about to tell you.)  I placed the skewers in the center, about a quarter inch apart, and closed the lid.  Then we just checked and turned them every few minutes.  (How’s THAT for scientific?  Welcome to the Punky Chef.  Timers be damned, I say.)

grilling

I would say it takes at least ten minutes, maybe fifteen, to get the chicken cooked, and after that it’s all about how done (in my case, how BURNT) you like your veggies.  I actually love blackened bell peppers and the smoky flavor the onions and mushrooms get when they’re dark in the corners.  The beauty of the marinade is that it seals in the moisture and also keeps the mushrooms from falling apart (mostly).  So just walk your way through it, have a glass of wine, (I had three this particular evening, I’m not gonna lie), and keep checkin’ yer chickins.  You can always investigate by cutting into the biggest piece and making sure it’s all white inside – then you’re good to go!

And now just SERVE and ENJOY!

Sorry - it was dark in the backyard by the time we finished.  Just picture red wine, candles, and good friends.  Oh, it's just so Ina Garten, don't you think?

Sorry - it was dark in the backyard by the time we finished. Just picture red wine, candles, and good friends. Oh, it's just so Ina Garten, don't you think?

Carefully, from the far end, use your fork to slide the pieces off the skewers and on to your plate.  This is the part that always makes me sad about the Ka-POW experience: we go through all this work to make these beautiful, colorful skewers, only to dump it all on our plates like some lame stir-fry.  I suppose you could just pick up the skewer like a piece of corn and munch away, but I’m worried it would all fall off anyway.  Still, maybe I’ll try that next time.  (If Kate ever invites me over again, that is.)

But I think Kate WILL invite me back, because we all enjoyed these Ka-POWS so much.  The marinade made the chicken juicy and made everything BURST with flavor – savory, peppery, zingy – I could make up words for this amazing flavor all day, (and we still have a couple hours before we land at JFK, so I certainly have time), but suffice it to say that we were all impressed and happy with ourselves.  (And I can say right now that they sure beat the hell out of Dorito Munchie Mix.  Is it possible to have a salt coma?)

And most of this recipe was of course gotten at my local Farmer’s Market, so head on out there, Summerpunkies, and see what you find to make your own Ka-POW Party!

wuv,
Sam

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    duodishes said,

    Mmm mm mmm love the smell of a hot grill and all the yummy thinks you can toss on it.


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