Wine With Lamb Kebabs
by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas
We weren't too surprised to find that almost all of the thirteen red wines we opened to try with lamb kebabs ranged from pleasant to delicious with the dish. Lamb, generally speaking, is an immensely wine-friendly meat, and when it's lightly flavored with herbs, garlic and olive oil, it's even more suited to red wine. In general, bigger was better, though in the very best pairings the wines were well structured and showed some refinement. Our favorite wines for the match tended to be fairly substantial in body, with enough richness on the palate to balance the assertive kebab flavors. The only disappointing wines were a California Pinot Noir that was perfectly fine on its own, but lacked enough power for the kebabs, and a Napa Merlot that had little grip or finesse.
While this process certainly can be skipped, we started the dish early enough in the day so that we had plenty of time to brine the pieces of lamb. (By dissolving some of the protein fibers, brining allows moisture and flavor to be drawn in, resulting in juicier, more flavorful meat or poultry).
Many different kinds of vegetables are compatible with lamb kebabs, including zucchini and eggplant as well as bell peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes. We like to cook the slower cooking vegetables such as peppers and onions before tossing them in the marinade, just to soften a little of the crunch. (To do this, place the cut up vegetables in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil and remove from heat. Drain immediately and set the vegetables aside).
1 ½ pounds boneless lamb, preferably from the leg, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 red or yellow bell pepper cut in 1½ inch squares
1 medium onion cut in 1 ½ inch squares
16 cherry tomatoes
16 button mushrooms
8 metal skewers
For the Brining Process:
6 cups water
¼ cup salt
¼ cup sugar
2 bay leaves
2 cloves peeled garlic, smashed
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Place all brining ingredients in a large pot and bring water to a boil. Simmer just long enough for salt and sugar to dissolve, then remove from heat and let thoroughly chill. Add the meat to the cold brining liquid (add more water if the pieces of meat are not completely submerged). Let the lamb sit in the brining liquid for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours in the refrigerator. Remove meat from the brine and pat it dry. Discard smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves.
For the Marinade:
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon each minced parsley and fresh mint
Combine all ingredients. Add lamb and vegetables and toss well with the marinade. Thread the cubes of meat, alternating with the vegetables, on metal skewers. Let rest for at least 45 minutes, or up to several hours (refrigerated).
Grill the skewers over moderately high heat until the meat is well charred on the outside and cooked to taste on the inside (about 7 minutes for medium rare).