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West Philly Koobideh
Helping urbanized readers cope with Kabob withdrawal

By Johnny Waters
January 8, 2003
The Iranian

I have decided to share my technique for cooking koobideh kabob indoors. I have developed this skill over the Philadelphia winter where grilling is not the best option, and the economic climate makes Chelow Kabob at Roya (our local Persian restaurant) not a regular option.

The materials:

-- 1 gas-powered oven with a broiler
-- 1 metal brownie pan (I use a 9" x 13" one)
-- 1-inch thick, flat sword-like skewers
-- 1 or more KababZan (you don't need this, but it makes life WAY easier)
-- 1 steel bowl
-- 1 vessel bigger than the bowl, for use as a hot water bath

The ingredients:

-- 1 lb 85% ground beef (I tried leaner and it wasn't as good)
-- 1 egg white (I don't like yolks)
-- 1 tsp salt
-- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
-- 1 yellow onion, shredded and dried with paper towels. (I wish I had a kid to pass this work off onto!)
-- I like to toss in a tsp of somaq powder too, but I guess that's optional I don't use baking soda... but I can't see why someone else shouldn't

The Technique:

In the warmed steel bowl (in the warm water bath) knead the ground meat until it's a gross pasty sticky mass. If you are a girlyman like me, you will want to wear latex or nitrile exam gloves. Add the egg white and knead more, add the onion, salt, pepper, and somaq and knead more. I like to let this mixture set for about two hours at room temperature.

Prepare the kabob on the skewers, maybe making it a bit thinner and longer than you would normally. High surface area/weight is key here. I really suggest using a KababZan -- they make this SO much easier to do.

Now this is where I really begin to diverge from the norm: Turn on the broiler in the over, yeah, the one where the flame is above the item(s) being cooked. Place the skewer(s) on the brownie pan so that they are elevated a bit from the bottom of the broiler, and adjust the height accordingly. I keep about a 2-inch space between the flames and the meat. Place the works in the broiler and begin to flip them carefully every 10 seconds or so.

There is a critical phase of the cooking process where the meat will want to slip off the skewer, and sometimes it will. I have worked out a system that does a pretty good job at keeping this from happening. Eventually those proteins begin to disassociate and congeal, and you can let them go for 5 or so minutes per side and serve. The fat and evidence of failure (if it happens) will be held neatly in the brownie pan. This technique also works great for other kinds of kabob, especially veggies.

I have stopped doing this as I finally found a perfect charcoal grille. It looks like a tool box, it's the perfect length for my skewers, and a set of tin snips allowed me to modify them such that I can close the lid over the skewers and keep the heat from escaping.

I still look back fondly at my "West Philly Koobideh" technique, and hope that this helps urbanized readers cope with kabob withdrawal. Some elements are missing, the taste of the burned fat/drippings that gently combines with the meat cooking above, the fuzzy warmth of using my ex-girlfriend's hair drier to start the coals off, neighbors asking about the 'scary looking' skewers, and so on. But it's kabob and it's good, so I am happy, and that's what counts!

A word about Rice: I have tried many brands and have settled on Kohinoor brand. I have yet to find any stones, let alone a gem, in amongst the grains. But it's a little more expensive. The finished grains are HUGE and fluffy and it smells fantastic as it "dams" in the pot. Tacheen comes out great too, the longer grains mesh a bit more and it holds together great.

Koda hafez!

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