Mary Had a Little Lamb Kebab

The first sound ever recorded by Thomas Edison’s phonograph in 1877 was the nursery rhyme: “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.  For most, this poem evokes happy memories of childhood.  For me, it evokes my salivary glands to go into overdrive. 

Lamb is like Justin Bieber, you either love it or hate it. There is no in between. In fact, the majority of U.S. residents have never tried lamb. As for me, I’m a true Belieber of lamb, especially grilled lamb.

My favorite thing to grill is marinated lamb kebabs that are sure to knock your wool socks off. The best cut to use for kebabs is a boneless leg or shoulder, I prefer legs. If you can only find one with bone-in, kindly ask the butcher to take the bone out.  Remember that for best flavors, you will need to marinade it overnight, so plan ahead.

When possible, I try to get lamb from New Zealand.  You might be wondering why not American or Australian. Majority of American lamb is confined and fed grain and hay for the last 2-3 months of their lives. Australia is better, but if they have poor grass years they also turn to grain. If you want real grass fed lamb with the most flavor, the type that followed Mary to school and back, stick with New Zealand.

After bringing home the lamb, it is now time to sacrifice it and chop it up into 1 to 2 inch cubes. Try to remove as much fat as possible, the more fat you keep, the more flare-ups you'll get. Our goal is to grill the kebabs, not torch them. Now, set the cut meat aside and let’s move on to the marinade.  

The marinade is super simple and this is where you can play around with different ingredients that will impart the flavor and tenderize the meat. The liquid part of the marinade needs to come from something acidic. It could be anything from vinegar to lemon juice to pomegranate molasses. I prefer apple vinegar as this is how my grandfather taught me. He grew up in the Caucasus and if that region is good at anything it is grilling Kebabs (or Shashlik in Russian).

Next, chop up some onions, shallots, and garlic. Add salt, pepper and any other spices you enjoy. Mix everything together massaging all of the ingredients with the meat and let it marinade in the fridge overnight. If you do it right, your hands should smell for a week following the marinating process no matter how much you try to wash them.

Now, when you’re ready to eat, fire up your grill and use this time to skewer the meat. My personal favorite are Steven Raichlen’s signature stainless steel grilling kabob Skewers. The flat wide design ensures that the meat will flip when you turn the skewer and not spin in place. Before skewering, squeeze the meat slightly so that excess marinade doesn't drip onto the coals.

By now, your grill should be HOT and ready for the Kebabs. Grill for 5-10 minutes on each side depending on the size and how well done you like it. Keep a water bottle nearby with a few holes in the cap to spray any flare-ups. Finally the hardest part of the whole process .... let the kebabs rest for 5-10 minutes after taking them off the grill. Every part of your brain and body will tell you otherwise, but hold off on digging in. That's it, you're now a Lamb Kebab grilling ninja! 

If you've never tried lamb before or if you think you hate it, I challenge you to give it another shot. But don't take my word for it! 

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” ~ Thomas Edison

Top 7 Wines to Pair with Grilled Food

Top 7 Wines to Pair with Grill Food

Grilling should be easy, and so should picking out the right wine. When it comes to pairing wine with grilled food, there are no right answers. It is a very intimate choice that involves the oldest scientific method: trial and error. We do however need a starting point to begin experimenting with what works best for us personally. To me, this starting point is the vineyards themselves. Here are 7 wines that according to the wineries themselves pair best with various grilled and BBQ fare. 

BBQ Pork Ribs - 2012 Benziger Cabernet Sauvignon

Our Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon is very inviting with aromas of black olive and savory, dark fruit. Its well weighted structure and integrated tannins add a light chalkiness to the palate . Flavors of black currant, bing cherry and juicy plum endure from start to finish, as hints of tea and cocoa help support the mid - palate.

BBQ Brisket - 2013 Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon

Showing off spicy aromas and fruity flavors, this robust Cabernet is perfect pairing for BBQ! This maroon beauty shows an elegant balance of fruit and oak. Aromas of cedar and cassis jump out of the glass, while the palate evokes flavors of black cherries and dark chocolate. This dark and dense wine shows strong tannins from the first sip with a dry finish balanced by hints of vanilla and cloves.

Grilled Poultry - 2012 Pull Eighty Pinot Noir

Grilled Poultry, Pork, Fish | 2012 Pull Eighty Pinot Noir

Our Pinot Noir is carefully crafted from fruit that is selected for its aromatics and depth of flavor. The vineyards that go into Pull Eighty are blended to create a well balanced and classic expression of Pinot Noir from Oregon.

Grilled Salmon - 2013 Annabella Chardonnay

Grilled Salmon | 2013 Annabella Chardonnay

Annabella Chardonnay is a full flavored wine with medium body and a rich concentration of fruit. It has overtones of apples and pears with a wonderful nose and mouth feel. A subtle essence of new oak creates a lingering finish. 

Grilled Rack of Lamb - 2011 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon

Grilled Rack of Lamb | 2011 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon

Mostly central Golan and Upper Galilee. Aged for 18 months primarily in small French oak barrels. On the palate, intense ripe blackberry, cherry, cassis and plum notes with toasty oak, vanilla and a nuance of spice and tar; full-bodied and concentrated with a long complex finish. 

Grilled Steak and Game - 2013 Herencia Altes Garnatxa Negra

Grilled Steak and Game | 2013 Herencia Altes Garnatxa Negra

Bright crimson in colour, this wine is very expressive with notes of red fruits and minerals that leap from the glass. Plenty of fruit on the palate, a touch of complexity and sweet tannins.

Grilled Vegetables - 2013 Kris Pinot Grigio
Grilled Vegetables | 2013 Kris Pinot Grigio

Pale yellow with green reflections, Kris offers enticing aromas of acacia flowers, citrus, tangerine, apricots, and hints of almonds. 

What is your favorite wine?