Early in our marriage, when there was little extra money for babysitters and date nights, my husband and I began hosting casual meals for our friends and their children. There was nothing fancy about these family-friendly, economical meals. The entrée often involved ground beef or chicken, both budget-friendly choices at that time.
When chicken was featured on our dinner table, it was always chicken still on the bone. I'm not even sure boneless, skinless chicken breasts, now so popular, were available in grocery stores at that time. If they were in the meat case at the supermarket, they were probably a bit too expensive for my $20 a week grocery budget.
One summer evening we invited a couple over with their small child. I pulled plump chicken breasts from the refrigerator, where they had been marinating in a lemony liquid for hours. Our early years of marriage coincided with my husband's early years of cooking on a grill. After what seemed like an adequate amount of cook-time over hot coals, my husband came into the kitchen with a platter of perfectly charred chicken breasts, the aroma of garlic and lemon following right behind.
The only thing I can still remember about that meal was the red juice that began to ooze from the chicken breast on my plate as I sliced closer to the bone. It was not a pretty site and it was not limited to just my plate.
When my food budget became more generous, I discovered boneless, skinless chicken breasts. My husband switched to a gas grill and with more control of the heat, he became proficient at cooking moist and flavorful chicken and vegetables threaded onto metal skewers.
Now my experienced griller has mastered cooking over hot coals. When he comes into the house with a platter of chicken kabobs, I know they will be cooked to perfection, the meat succulent and the vegetables sweet and tender.
Although chunks of colorful vegetables lined up on a skewer with chicken looks attractive, we've discovered best results come when chicken is cooked on one skewer, wedges of onions on another and chunks of peppers together on another. Since protein and vegetables cook at varying times, this allows for cooking individual skewers until the items are sufficiently done, and eliminates burning one ingredient while trying to cook another.
I like to experiment with different mixtures for marinating the chicken before it gets pushed onto skewers. Asian-inspired flavors are always my favorite. Marinated Sesame Chicken Kabobs combine slightly sweet and salty teriyaki sauce and fragrant dark sesame oil, both found in the international aisle at the grocery store, with soy sauce and canola oil. Fresh ginger and garlic add more Asian flavor, with sesame seeds contributing nice texture.
If you will be using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for an hour or two before assembling kabobs. After threading the meat and vegetables onto the skewers, wrap the ends with a bit of aluminum foil to prevent them from burning.
Or do what I do. Grill the meat and vegetables on metal skewers. Once cooked, slide the ingredients onto a platter and quickly rethread them onto wooden skewers for serving.
Marinated Sesame Chicken Kabobs are an easy, healthful meal for both the experienced and the novice grillers to serve with pride, and with confidence in knowing there won't be even a drop of red liquid in sight.
Marinated Sesame Chicken Kabobs
1 1/2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 chubby cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
2 medium-size sweet yellow peppers, cut into pieces
2 medium-size sweet red peppers, cut into pieces
2 small red onions, cut into wedges
Cut chicken into strips about 1-inch wide. Place in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag or a shallow dish.
Combine teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, sesame seeds, canola oil, sesame oil, garlic and grated ginger in a small bowl, whisking to blend well. Pour mixture over chicken. Seal or cover and marinate in refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
Soak wooden skewers in water for at least one hour.
Thread chicken, accordion style, and vegetables on separate skewers, with peppers, onions and meat each on its own skewer. Discard remaining marinade. Wrap the ends of skewers with a bit of aluminum foil. Grill kabobs over medium-hot coals or at a temperature of 375 degrees until chicken is just cooked through and slightly charred, turning often, about 8 minutes. Grill vegetables until just tender. Makes 4 servings.
Tips from the cook
--I like using a combination of 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds.
--If you choose the oven over the grill, place the skewers on a shallow baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes, and vegetables are tender.
--Tempeh or seafood can be used as an alternative to chicken.