The Original Fast Food
Persia, one of the oldest, continuous civilizations on earth, was incredibly advanced in ancient times and had a history of dynasties that ruled the area throughout time. The people in this region have been eating well for millennia. Traditional Persian cuisine spread through the Middle East during ancient times, which still holds today. Excavations of the Minoan settlement of Akrotiri on the island of Thera (now Santorini) unearthed elaborate stone supports for skewers used before the 17th century BC. If you want to become a great BBQ cook, start at the beginning–cooking chunks of meat on a wooden stick is one of the first cooking techniques ever known to humankind. Barg Kebab or traditional Persian BBQ filet mignon fits the bill perfectly.
Gas or Wood Charcoal Grill?
Undoubtedly, cooking over a wood fire adds depths of flavor to our foods. Super traditional Persian kebabs use ash, maple, beech, oak, olive, walnut, plum, lilac, alder, or fig. Any of these wood charcoals are great to use and certainly add flavor to the finished product. The trick is finding a rack to support steel skewers over the fire. Fortunately, there are dozens of inexpensive kebab racks specifically made for an outdoor grill.
While wood charcoal has its benefits, it’s hard to pass up the ease and efficiency of cooking over a gas grill. For this recipe, I cook the kebabs over a Weber grill with the grates removed, which gets the meat closer to the fire. Serendipitously, this also eliminates any chance the beef will stick to the grates. If, however, the grates can’t be removed on your grill, there are also plenty of inexpensive kebab skewer racks made for gas grills as well. Check out: Universal BBQ Skewer holder for gas or charcoal grill.
Once you’ve settled on your grill, following set up your fire with three zones: A medium high-heat zone, a medium-heat zone, and a holding zone (no-heat). Begin with the skewers over the high-heat spot until a light brown crust forms, then rotate the skewer to cook the opposite side. When the kebabs have cooked on each side, move to the low-heat zone and allow to finish cooking while you work the additional skewers. This method avoids over-cooking and allows the skewers to keep warm until they all can come off simultaneously.
There are hundreds of skewers available. The flat skewers keep the meat from spinning when rotated. I use a thick, flat skewer for heavy beef and a small, flat skewer for vegetables or seafood. I typically avoid skewers with wood handles (these inevitably break off) or weird handles that are difficult to grasp with a kitchen towel or hand. Koobideh Persian/Brazilian style 1 inch wide flat skewers are ideal. For a smaller gauge of a skewer, I suggest Koobideh/Brazilian 1/2 inch wide flat skewers. Getting the right equipment will make your task easier and safer. The kebabs will be very hot, right off the grill, so a firm grip is essential.
BOURGOGNE ROUGE, 2018, Burgundy, France
Barg Kebab - Traditional Persian Filet Mignon Kebab
- Flat skewers (preferably Koobiedeh/Brazilian skewers)
- gas grill or wood/charcoal grill
- chef knife
- cutting board
Preparing the marinade
- Set up an electric food processor with a medium grating disc, or use a hand grater.
- Using your hands or a bolt of cheesecloth, squeeze out all of the onion juice from the grated onion over a medium-sized mixing bowl. Once all of the minced onion has been given all the liquid, reserve the minced onion for another use.
- Next, add the onion juice, salt, ground black pepper, ground sumac, and saffron water. Mix thoroughly to combine. Refrigerate and reserve.
To prepare the meat
- Prepare the Filet Mignon as seen in the illustrations above. Remove all the sinew or silver skin and excess fat from the filet. Cut the filet into 3½-4 inch pieces. Using a sharp knife, butterfly the meat to make a long flat piece of steak. Then, using the backside of a heavy knife, pound the beef starting from one end and going to the other and back again.
- Place the tenderized strips of meat in a non-reactive container. Next, add the reserved onion juice mixture to the beef and allow it to marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight (max) in the refrigerator. Longer marinating will deepen the flavors of the meat, but avoid going more than 8 hours as this will dry the meat out.
Prepare the fire
- While the meat is marinating in the onion mixture, prepare the fire. Of course, cooking over a wood fire adds more flavor, but cooking over a gas grill is so convenient it's hard to pass up. Either way will work, however setting up several heat zones for cooking is an important step.
- Prepare the fire or gas grill with a no-heat(holding area), medium, high-heat area. Setting up these zones will help you control the amount of heat over which the meat is cooking.
Skewering and cooking the kebab
- Lay one piece of the tenderized/marinated beef on a large cutting board. While holding a skewer with one hand, place your other hand over the top of the prepared meat and pass the skewer through the center of the beef. (You can feel the tip of the skewer through the hand on top of the meat.) Press down gently as the tip of the skewer passes through the beef.
- With the meat on the skewer, gently gather the beef to the end that will be over the fire. Next, place the prepared skewer over a sheet pan or dish and repeat the process until all the skewers are ready. Reserve
- Once the grill has heated up, start the skewers on high heat. Once the meat begins to brown, rotate the skewer to cook the opposite side. (If you find high-heat is cooking too fast, move the skewer to the medium-heat area.)
- Continue cooking the skewers until all are cooked and moved to the low-heat section of the grill. Remove onto a plate or sheet pan and serve.