Kubideh Kebab (pronounced Koo-bih-deh Kah-bob)
It may not look like much, but holy smokes, this is delicious. If you like the smokey taste of barbecue, you absolutely have to try these kebabs. This is the closest I’ve ever come to cooking meat on a spit, and it’s just as wonderful as I’d always imagined.
These kebabs are a formal Persian dinner, which makes me like them just a little bit more. If this is what they serve to impress, it absolutely succeeds. Bryan’s parents grew up making this dish, and they taught it to us the last time we were visiting. Even though they live in the US now, Bryan’s parents haven’t stopped cooking some of the best Persian food out there, and this recipe comes courtesy of them.
Combine the ground beef, grated onion, and garlic and mix, mix, mix. Bryan’s mom is hard-core and uses her hands to mix, but I took the easy way out and used a potato masher. You want to break down the bonds in the proteins of the beef, and simultaneously push the air out of the meat. Mash, don’t stir, the beef for a solid 10 minutes (it’s worth it, don’t worry), and then let it rest for about an hour. I popped it back in the fridge, but it must come back up to room temperature before meeting the grill or the meat will fall apart as it starts to cook.
Next, take about a tennis ball sized amount of meat and smush it around the skewer pushing air out as much as possible. Make sure to seal the ends tightly and not to overload the skewers as I did the first time. If you don’t happen to have skewers like this around (I didn’t until Bryan’s parents gave them to us to make kebabs), you could form them into thin patties and place them in a finely netted grill basket. Remember, you broke down the protein bonds, so they aren’t as firm as a traditional hamburger.
Next, get your fire or your grill nice and hot. You still want flames in the case of a charcoal grill, or if you’re using gas, crank it up to med-high or high heat. Now this is the fun part. You want to smoke the meat, rotisserie style, so it shouldn’t ever touch the grill surface. I used the edges of the grill to support the skewers, but Bryan’s dad uses old bricks to great success.
Sear the meat for about 10 seconds on each side in the flames, and then you can move it to the sides and let it slowly smoke, only turning occasionally. It’ll turn a beautiful reddish brown and the smell of smoking kebabs will be irresistible by they time they’re done.
Serve with Basmati rice (seriously. Don’t skimp on the rice) and sabzi. Sabzi literally means “greens,” but it’s basically fresh herbs piled onto your plate and eaten with every bite. We used basil, chives, parsley, and green onions for our sabzi this time, but you can use whatever herbs you like–just use them. The herbs add a freshness to the dish that simply cannot be replaced.