If you are a confident and practiced griller, you may be familiar with the marinated, skewered meat called shashlik. It’s street food in places such as Russia, Israel and Bulgaria, but it hasn’t made it to San Antonio in a big way, as far as we know.
However, any of our thousands of backyard grill masters and grilling neophytes should be able to handle this simple preparation.
The meat in shashlik may be beef, lamb, pork or veal. In the areas in which it is common, the meat will depend upon the religious observances of the diners. The cubes of meat are sometimes alternated with a layer of fat, or sometimes cut in smaller cubes and alternated with vegetables.
If you’re thinking “shish kebab” right about now, you’re close. The difference is that shashlik is marinated overnight in a high-acid marinade. In addition to the acidic ingredient, you also add herbs and spices. Acid breaks down protein; oil helps to keep the meat moist. For the acid, use vinegar, a dry wine, or a sour juice, such as lemon or bitter orange.
You can also cut the meat into smaller cubes and serve it as finger food continuously during a cocktail-hour party, or other event. If you use a marinade with some unusual spices, your guests may not mistake shashlik for fajitas – and they’ll come back for more.
Russian (Uzbek) Shashlik
4 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of some of the fat and cut into 1 ½-inch dice
2 large white onions, plus another half onion, peeled
1 teaspoon salt, or your favorite seasoning salt blend for meat
½ teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne
2 teaspoons sweet (not hot) paprika
Juice of 2 small lemons
3 tablespoons oil
Put the pork shoulder in a large bowl. Dice two of the onions finely (but not to a mush) in a food processor and spread over the pork. Add the salt or seasoning salt, red chile pepper or cayenne, paprika, lemon juice and oil.
Rub the marinade ingredients into the meat and mix together well. Cover the meat and let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
You’ll want a hot grill to be ready about 30 minutes before the meat is to be served. Skewer the cubes of pork on flat metal skewers, if you have them. Wipe off the marinade before skewering. In between each piece of meat you can skewer a square of onion. If you have to use round skewers, use two of them. That will make it easier to turn the meat back and forth over the coals. It will take about 30 minutes or a little longer to cook the meat thoroughly.
Adapted from everydayrussian.com