It’s summer, and I’ve been putting the grill to good use. In Chicago, we need to seize each day of our short grilling season! I want meals that are simple and fast, yet also healthy and delicious. Yes, I may be demanding, but there is indeed a solution... and that is fish and seafood kebabs.
Many people I know hesitate when it comes to preparing fish and seafood, leaving those foods to Shaw’s and Joe’s Stone Crab. Although I’ll be first in line at those places once things finally get back to “normal”, I do believe that cooking fish is easier than most people think. The most common mistakes made when cooking fish are overcooking (resulting in dryness or toughness) and over handling (leading to fish that falls apart). Kebabs mitigate both of these problems.
To begin, it’s wise to purchase a decent set of skewers if you like kebabs and plan to make them somewhat often. If not, remember to soak wooden/bamboo skewers in warm water for 15-30 minutes prior to use so they don’t burn and fall apart.
When making fish kebabs, the skin is usually removed and the fish cut into pieces that can easily be threaded onto the skewers. Prior to threading, rub the fish with a little oil, salt and pepper, or better yet, marinate in your favorite combination of deliciousness (see recipes below for suggestions). Since the pieces of fish are smaller, the cooking time is hence reduced. Literally minutes and one flip of the skewers is all you’ll need.
Lightly oil the grill before firing it up. Heat to medium-high to high temperature (the 375 to 450 degree range depending on size/thickness of fish) and within 10 minutes, the grill will be ready. When grilling kebabs, it’s not difficult to tell when they are ready to serve. But whether you’re grilling kebabs or full-size filets, follow the cooking guidelines of your chosen recipe and remember these general rules of thumb for ascertaining doneness of fish:
- the flesh flakes easily when inserted with a fork;
- the fish will be easy to pry off the grill surface;
- the color will change from translucent to white, or deep pink/red to pearly coral in the case of salmon, Arctic char or certain kinds of trout.
Do not worry about the potential for undercooking. Fish continues to cook once removed from the heat source so be vigilant and when in doubt, remove it earlier as opposed to later.
Of course, the same rules apply for seafood - something like shrimp, for example, is already bite-sized and will be ready in a flash. So check out my recipes for easy marinades for salmon and shrimp, pop the kebabs on the grill and you’ll have a delicious dinner in no time!
For basic marinade:
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1. Combine all ingredients.
For salmon kebabs:
1. Make sure the salmon is a thicker filet in order to cut more substantial cubes for the kebabs. I recommend skinning the salmon because the quick cooking time for kebabs does not allow the skin to become sufficiently crisp. Take a look at our video on how to skin and portion fish.
2. Add skinned, cubed salmon (about 1.5-2” cubes) to the marinade and let stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes. You can also add vegetables if you wish, e.g. red onion, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini.
3. Thread onto skewers, season with salt and pepper and place on the grill set on medium-high heat. Turn once or twice until cooked through, usually 6-8 minutes depending on the size of the chunks.
Herb marinade for shrimp:
3 garlic cloves
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves and tender stems/sprigs
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1. Mince together the garlic, thyme, rosemary and salt; mash to a coarse paste. Whisk in remaining ingredients until emulsified.
For shrimp kebabs:
1. Use a larger size, peeled and deveined raw shrimp. Tail-on shrimp are more aesthetically pleasing but that’s a matter of opinion and it’s your call.
2. Marinate at least one hour (but no more than two).
3. Thread on skewers and grill on medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
See how easy and fun grilling can be by joining us on our Lincoln Square patio for Italian Surf & Turf this Friday, July 24 at 6pm. You'll learn how to make:
- Grilled Shrimp Caesar Salad with Shaved Parmesan
- Bistecca (Grilled Ribeye Steaks) with Lemon, Roasted Garlic and Oregano Butter
- Panzanella with Artichokes, Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Grilled Green Beans
- Grilled Oranges with Whipped Mascarpone and Honey-Mint Syrup
If you aren't in Chicago, join us for a virtual Cook Along class featuring Fish en Papillote on the same evening, Friday, July 24 at 6pm CST. You'll make this menu in real-time with our Owner/Chef Shelley Young as you get more tips and tricks on cooking fish at home:
- Fish en Papillote (Fish Steamed in Parchment Paper with Leeks, Capers and Compound Butter)
- Warm French Lentil Salad with Spinach
We also offer a more in-depth Grilling Boot Camp where you can learn about all-things-grilling, including seafood. Watch our calendar and sign up quickly due to our reduced class sizes this summer in order to keep you socially distanced and safe!